An intense issue that my office faces is when a child is in danger and New Jersey Child Custody matters must be addressed in an emergent manner. Specifically, our client’s are truly at their emotional zenith when it is unclear what state has even has jurisdiction over custody decisions concerning the child in crisis. Following you shall please find how the relevant laws that are analyzed and utilized by the Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein in order to help our client’s protect their children on an emergency basis.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, known as the UCCJEA, was established in New Jersey in 2004. It replaced an older act, known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, which was first put into effect in 1979 to assuage jurisdictional custody disputes. The purpose of the UCCJEA is to prevent forum shopping; in other words, the act deters litigants from having the ability to select the court most likely to provide a favorable judgment to have their case heard in. Two other main purposes of the UCCJEA are to avoid interstate custody disputes and to encourage cooperation among the states.
The act was enacted to grant custody jurisdiction to the state with more sufficient contacts. Pursuant to the act, the child and at least one of the parents must reside in New Jersey. Furthermore, there must be available in New Jersey substantial evidence concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships. This concept stems from the famous case of International Shoe v. Washington, in which a minimum contacts test was laid out to see if a court had jurisdiction over a case. Additionally, the act was designed to help out the state’s order with enforceability in a state competing for jurisdiction.
While significant contacts are an important criteria when determining which state has jurisdiction over a case, there are three other independent criteria established by the UCCJEA:
1. Home state jurisdiction—a child must be a resident of New Jersey at least six months before the action, or must have been a resident for a least six months but was then removed from the state by a parenting claiming custody
2. Emergency jurisdiction—a child must be physically present in New Jersey, yet abandoned. Moreover, a child must be physically present in New Jersey, but is in need for protection due to potential or actual abuse, neglect, or mistreatment. It is important to note that relief under this independent jurisdictional criteria is usually restricted to the immediate protection of the child
3. Best interest jurisdiction—the best interest of the child must always be considered first and foremost. If it is in the best interest of the child for a case to be heard in one particular jurisdiction, it could be that no other jurisdiction qualifies or that a state has failed to exercise jurisdiction
The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, abbreviated as the PKPA, is more commonly known as the Full Faith and Credit Given to Child Custody Determinations. The act was created to fix problems among states whose UCCJEA statutes resulted in contradictory and enduring discord. As a federal statute, the Full Faith and Credit Given to Child Custody Determinations surpasses a state’s UCCJEA.
While the Full Faith and Credit Given to Child Custody Determinations does include several analogous requirements of the UCCJEA, most notably the four independent jurisdictional criteria, it grants initial jurisdiction to the home state regardless of a child’s significant contacts with a state. In hopes of preventing incompatible state’s modification diktats, the Full Faith and Credit Given to Child Custody Determinations established the idea of continuing jurisdiction when that state made a previous custody decision, has jurisdiction by New Jersey law, and the child or one of the child’s parents is a New Jersey resident.
Additional notable provisions of the Full Faith and Credit Given to Child Custody Determination include the following pursuant to §1738A:
Section E: Before a child custody or visitation determination is made, reasonable notice and opportunity to be heard shall be given to the contestants, any parent whose parental rights have not been previously terminated and any person who has physical custody of a child
Section F: A court of a state may modify a determination of the custody of the same child made by a court of another state if: (1) it has jurisdiction to make such a child custody determination; and (2) the court of the other state no longer has jurisdiction, or it has declined to exercise such jurisdiction to modify such determination.
Section G: A court of a state shall not exercise jurisdiction in any proceeding for a custody or visitation determination commenced during the pendency of a proceeding in a court of another state where such court of that other state is exercising jurisdiction consistently with the provisions of this section to make a custody or visitation determination
Section H: A court of a state may not modify a visitation determination made by a court of another state unless the court of the other state no longer has jurisdiction to modify such determination or has declined to exercise jurisdiction to modify such determination.
As these matters are usually quite complex, it is essential that you reach out to NJ Custody Attorneys who masters these types of cases. If you or a loved one find yourselves in such a situation, please never hesitate to immediately contact my office for advise and guidance.