What Is a Uniform Act?
A uniform act is a proposed set of laws for states to adopt. Each state has its own set of laws—some of them unique to the jurisdiction, others are similar or identical to most states. For example, each state has its own rules concerning the domestic relations of its citizens.
Although federal laws can do the job of standardizing legal issues between states, the U.S. Constitution limits the federal government’s ability to do so. As a result, an organization of lawyers of policy-makers—known as the Uniform Law Commission (ULC)—develops proposed legislation that each state may or may not adopt.
In the realm of family law, the ULC has developed several uniform acts. However, many states decide against adopting the ULC’s uniform acts. For example, only five states have implemented the Uniform Parentage Act: California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.
This blog discusses the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA), and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
The UCCJEA establishes procedural rules for states to recognize and enforce the child custody orders of a sister state. State courts can only legally compel a person to act if it had personal jurisdiction over them. A state court has personal jurisdiction over a person if they are physically present in the state, or if they have enough contact with the state so that a court’s exercise of jurisdiction over them would comport with traditional notions of justice and fairness.
Historically, a person who crossed state lines with their child could avoid judicial enforcement of a state court’s custody orders. Thus, a parent could avoid the consequences of violating the terms of a custody order by moving with their child to another state. This is also known as “parental abduction.”
The UCCJEA attacked the problem of parental abduction by allowing state courts to exercise continuing jurisdiction for a custody order it rendered. Other state courts must recognize the validity of another state’s custody orders and have the authority to enforce such orders by legally requiring parental abductors to return the child to their home state.
The UCCJEA also resolves competing claims of state jurisdiction by establishing protocols for determining what state qualifies as a child’s home state.
Almost every state has adopted the provisions of the UCCJEA. Massachusetts has yet to adopt this uniform act, but it was recently introduced by the legislature for enactment.
Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act
Like the UCCJEA, the UCAPA was designed to combat parental abduction situations. However, UCAPA was introduced in 2006 after the UCCJEA. As a result, UCAPA provides supplementary tools to aid in preventing child abduction cases. Under UCAPA, state courts can impose legal measures to interfere with a parent’s attempt to remove their child from a state’s jurisdiction for the purpose of avoiding complying with a custody order’s terms.
The following states have enacted the UCAPA:
- New Mexico
- South Dakota
- Washington, D.C.
The problem of parental abduction has also arisen on the international stage. In response to international parental abduction cases, several countries entered into a multilateral treaty known as the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction—or the “Hague Abduction Convention” for short.
Similar to the UCCJEA, the Hague Abduction Convention resolves competing jurisdictional claims for child custody between different sovereign nations. This allows courts in one country to enforce the custody orders of another county’s courts and requiring the return of children wrongfully removed from the country of habitual residence.
The UCAPA also provides legal measures that also support the Hague Abduction Convent.
Under the UCAPA courts may grant the following remedies to counteract attempts at parental abduction, including:
- The imposition of travel restrictions
- Registration of a child on the U.S. State Department’s Child Passport Issuance Alert Program
- Requiring parents from a foreign country to obtain a domestic custody order with identical terms to existing custody orders
Uniform Interstate Family Support Act
The problems associated with jurisdictional conflict between state courts also appear in the context of child support orders. In the past, parents would try to avoid their child support obligations by moving to a different state.
In 1996, Congress enacted federal legislation that made the implementation of the UIFSA a condition for receiving federal funding for state child support enforcement activities. As a result, all U.S. states and territories have implemented the provisions of UIFSA.
The UIFSA limits a state court’s power to modify, enforce, or terminate a child support obligation. It also provides a process for resolving competing jurisdictional claims for deciding child support issues for parents living in different states.
DiPietro Law Group, PLLC is Prepared to Represent Your Family’s Best Interest
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