The UCCJEA: Helping States Combat the Problem of Disappearing Children

Highly contested divorce and custody disputes between parents can lead to children being negatively affected in a variety of ways. One of the most serious situations that can develop from a long and bitter dispute between two parents is child kidnapping. Often times when one parent has had enough they will just take their children and leave. Sometimes they will just leave and go to the next county over. However, sometimes one parent will decide to do the unthinkable and move halfway across the country or even across the globe. Whether the party that is leaving is the aggressor or the victim kidnapping a child and taking them across state lines is a serious matter.

In 2007 South Carolina became the 46th state to pass The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA is important because it represents a step forward in establishing clarity and predictability with regard to interstate custody rules. Under the UCCJEA a child is deemed to be a resident of the state in which they have lived for the prior 6 months, or in which they were born for the purposes of jurisdiction. The UCCJA was designed to prevent a fairly common legal standoff in which one parent gained legal custody of a child in one state, and the other parent managed to take the child to a “haven state” in search of a court willing to change the initial lawful custody order. Under the UCCJEA, this kind of conduct is no longer legal. Therefore, if, for example, your children are removed from South Carolina and taken to Florida without your permission while you still have custody, you would have a right to bring an action under South Carolina law.

The UCCJEA goes one step further in integrating federal law with developments in case law by prioritizing home state jurisdiction. It does so by setting forth the concept of continuing exclusive jurisdiction. An order from a state with continuing exclusive jurisdiction is entitled to be enforced in every other state and cannot be modified until the first state relinquishes jurisdiction. This act also expands protections for victims of domestic violence.

If your children have been taken from you or if you are in a victim of an abusive situation and feel like there is no way out then we can help you. Miller|Conway are Goose Creek attorneys who specialize in family law. We can handle your custody disputes and protect your interests as well as your children’s. Feel free to contact us  at 843.764.3334 for a free consultation.