How Does New Jersey Enforce and Modify Inter-State Family Law Orders? Understanding the UCCJEA

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was created to replace the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA). The UCCJEA is intended to, for one, put an end to child custody disputes that occur between parents who reside in different states.

Under the previous UCCJA, if a child subject to an existing custody order of one state, is moved to another state, it was then possible for the new state to modify the existing order issued by the previous state. This proved to be inefficient and problematic, because it created a situation where multiple conflicting orders could exist at the same time.

Fortunately, with the adoption of the UCCJEA (N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.72), there can no longer be controlling orders from more than one state.

Instead, under the UCCJEA, the first state to issue an order relating to custody shall continue to have continuing exclusive jurisdiction over the matter, which prevents any other state from issuing an order that modifies the initial order, unless:

  • The child has resided in another state for a period of six months or more; AND
  • The court in the initial state determines the new state would be a more convenient forum; OR
  • Neither the child, nor either of the child’s parents, reside in the initial state.

For example, if New Jersey is the first state to issue a child custody order related to a minor child, New Jersey courts will be the only courts that can modify such an order unless the child and both parents have moved out of the state, or, the child has moved out of the state and a New Jersey court determines the new state would be a better forum to address custody issues.

While these scenarios are not impossible, they are rather uncommon. As a result, in only a very limited number of cases will a new state have jurisdiction to modify an existing custody order from another state.

Nevertheless, the UCCJEA does permit any state to enforce an existing court order, provided the order is registered, or domesticated, in the new state. This is an important mechanism in situations where one parent has moved to a new state, but the child remains in another state. In these cases, even if a New Jersey court entered the initial custody order, any other state would be permitted to enforce that order, if it were being violated.

Further Establishments of the UCCJEA

In addition to the above, the UCCJEA also established the following additional provisions:

, First the UCCJEA created home state jurisdiction (HSJ). HSJ requires the child to be a resident of the state of New Jersey for at least six months before filing an initial action in New Jersey related to custody of a minor child. Further, HSJ also provides for jurisdiction in New Jersey if the child was residing in New Jersey for at least six months but was later removed from the state by a parent claiming custody.

Second, the UCCJEA led to emergency jurisdiction (EJ). Under EJ, a New Jersey court is permitted to issue an order related to custody, regardless of how long the child has been here, and regardless of whether any other custody order exists from another state, provided the order is necessary to protect the child from serious harm, or the child has been abandoned.

Contact A Central New Jersey Child Custody Attorney

Custody issues involving more than one state can be complex and time sensitive. Whether you are in need of a court order relating to custody of your minor child, or you want to enforce or modify an existing order, it is important that you seek the assistance of an experienced Family Law Attorney. Contact the Law Office of Steven M. Cytryn, LLC , for assistance with your child custody needs. Proudly Serving Central New Jersey, including Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset, Union and Mercer Counties.