After a three month maternity leave, and a few months adjusting to being a full-time working mom, I’m excited to be back to contributing my thoughts to this blog! I’m also excited to be writing on a topic that I not only find interesting but also encounter a great deal in my practice – interstate custody disputes.
Pure Home State Jurisdiction
Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a piece about the differences between child custody laws in Massachusetts and Rhode Island with a specific focus on the differences between the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). As detailed in the previous post, Massachusetts was the lone hold-out in adopting the UCCJEA, retaining pure home state jurisdiction when determining where to litigate child custody disputes.
Continuing and Exclusive Jurisdiction
Well, Massachusetts is slowly coming around and is getting close to adopting the UCCJEA! Massachusetts’ version of the UCCJEA was recently ordered to a third reading in the Senate. Significantly, if the UCCJEA passes, Massachusetts will recognize the “continuing and exclusive jurisdiction” of the Commonwealth to modify a custody order in certain instances. This would apply even if the child has moved out of Massachusetts and has remained out of Massachusetts for longer than six months.
Aligning Child Custody and Child Support Jurisdictions
Additionally, passage of the UCCJEA in Massachusetts will help create some harmony between child custody jurisdiction laws and child support jurisdiction laws in Massachusetts. Currently, a parent could find himself or herself litigating custody issues and child support issues in two separate states. While this is still a possibility even if the UCCJEA passes, it will be far less likely.
Streamlining Multi-State Disputes
Passage of the UCCJEA may also help facilitate settlements in the most difficult custody cases which involve the request to relocate with a child to another jurisdiction over the objection of the other parent. Currentlhy, under the UCCJA, allowing your co-parent to relocate to another jurisdiction with your child means that, after the passage of six months, you will be required to go to the new jurisdiction to litigate any custody disputes that arise in the future. While this is still a possibility under the UCCJEA, it would no longer be a given, and parents who would have otherwise objected to relocation, may no longer do so.
It’s still not clear as to when the UCCJEA will be put up for a final vote in the Senate, but I will be sure to watch this one closely and provide any updates.