Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act: Its impact on your Texas family law case

Jurisdiction is a critical issue in a Texas family law case. Despite this, many people are unaware of the role that it plays. For that reason, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is spending time today discussing this subject. Specifically, we are helping parents like you understand how jurisdiction is important when parties have lived in multiple states. Sometimes the most difficult part of a case is starting the process. When you know where to start the rest of the case falls into place. This blog post helps you get started on the right foot. 

Depending upon your circumstances, jurisdiction may end up being complicated. Moving frequently or having your child live with you and your co-parent makes a case more difficult. However, the issue of jurisdiction impacts a case primarily at the beginning. Once the issue is settled then you can move onto the actual subject matter at hand. Bear in mind that you must figure out the jurisdiction issue first before moving on.

A federal law known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) seeks to assist parents in these cases. Under the UCCJEA, a standard is set which applies to interstate custody situations. Anticipating that jurisdiction is an important subject the UCCJEA prioritizes figuring out jurisdiction quickly. This way families understand where they are going and what the path of their case will be. So much uncertainty exists at the beginning of a case. Removing jurisdictional uncertainty is a huge benefit. 

Jurisdiction and Texas courts

A child custody case in Texas begins with answering whether the state has jurisdiction over your case. Jurisdiction means the ability of a court to listen to arguments and decide issues in a case. It is the fundamental question for a court to answer in a family law case. Everything else falls into place once jurisdiction is determined. When you and your child have lived in Texas your whole lives this is not an especially interesting topic. However, when your child has lived in multiple states then it becomes a much more pressing question. 

What the UCCJEA does is help parents answer the question of where a case should be filed. Yes, mistakes happen every day and cases are filed in the wrong court. What ends up hurting families like yours is the time lost to having to refile or litigate an issue on jurisdiction. Avoiding this problem altogether is what the UCCJEA seeks to do. Providing litigants and their attorneys with a framework to determine jurisdiction is just what the UCCJEA does.

Even with the help of the UCCJEA, jurisdiction is not always an easy issue. Multiple factors run together simultaneously, as we will see. As such if you do not know what is happening with jurisdiction you need help. This is one of the areas where the Law Office of Bryan Fagan excels. We help families like yours every day sort out tough issues of jurisdiction and planning. Contact us today for a free of charge consultation. 

When does UCCJEA come into play?

The UCCJEA impacts child custody cases in the United States where the child has lived in multiple states. Or, where a child has lived in one state primarily but has had contact with another state (or their parent(s) have). As you can tell, this subject can get complicated fast. With our world being so mobility-friendly these days it does not come as a shock that jurisdictional issues are on the rise. The UCCJEA is as relevant now as it has at any point in its history. Working with an attorney with a strong knowledge of this law is crucial to your success.

The laws in Texas are unique when it comes to jurisdiction in family law cases. The same is true across all fifty states Each of our states has its ideas about when jurisdiction is appropriate in their state. Different states come up with different factors to consider when determining jurisdiction. While many states are similar in this regard, still others are much more unique. What parents like yourself are left with is a complicated landscape of sometimes contradictory state laws on a fundamental issue like jurisdiction.  

Living in different states means confusion for applying the law

There is some degree of confusion for families when attempting to apply jurisdictional laws. One state says one thing. The second state says something similar. Where is jurisdiction appropriate? Deciding on this issue not only is important from a time perspective but also from a money perspective. The more time you waste the more money you must spend to correct your mistake. Getting into a messy jurisdiction quandy is not ideal. Remember the well-being of your child is caught in the middle of all this. 

In a perfect world, the laws of the UCCJEA allow you to apply their standards to your case to determine where jurisdiction is for your case. While jurisdictional issues cannot always be clear the UCCJEA attempts to make them so. Keep in mind that only custody cases that involve physical and legal custody as well as visitation are relevant here. All other cases involving children and marriage (divorce) fall outside the purview of the UCCJEA. 

How is the UCCJEA divided up?

The UCCJEA has two main parts. The first covers jurisdictional issues. Basically, where is jurisdiction appropriate and what court should hear your case? Again, this is the first place where you should begin your studies of this subject. Once you have gone through a court case the second part of the UCCJEA becomes relevant. Namely, enforcing any orders previously handed down by a court. 

Enforcement cases are important in the life of a family law matter. You should not think about a family law case purely in the context of the initial case. Unfortunately, once those orders are received you need to remain vigilant about following them. When one parent does not do so it becomes an important issue to learn about enforcing the orders. This is one area the UCCJEA seeks to help parents out with, as well. 

Don’t put the cart before the horse in a Texas family law case

Before you make plans for a Texas court case make sure that the court has jurisdiction first. Filing a case in Texas is no guarantee that the court is going to be able to issue orders on your behalf. Racing to file a case first in Texas is no guarantee of the Texas court’s ability to hear a case. Just because you have a case filed in Texas does not mean your case will stay in the Lone Star State. 

When should you use the UCCJEA?

Finding out if Texas has jurisdiction over your case is the most basic part of the UCCJEA. When you, your co-parent, and/or your child live in a state other than Texas the UCCJEA is relevant. Filing your case in Texas (or any other state) that does not have jurisdiction is a waste of time and money. With both of those being limited in terms of availability, you want to be wise. Plan and learn as much as possible when determining where to file your case. 

Jurisdictional issues are not settled just because you win orders from a court, either. Your opposing party can raise issues regarding jurisdiction even on appeal. There is a long period where the UCCJEA and jurisdiction come into relevance. Therefore, having an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan assist you in your case matters a great deal. 

Custody and visitation issues are the name of the game under the UCCJEA. Do not expect that all issues related to your children are relevant. From the beginning of your case, the UCCJEA has to do with these subjects. Temporary and modification orders alike are fair game under the UCCJEA. Custody means conservatorship in Texas. You will not find the term “custody” in the Texas Family Code even once. The term is something used casually by attorneys and judges alike, however. 

Managing conservatorship issues matters the most in a child custody case. This is the ability for you as a parent to make decisions on behalf of your child. These are the most fundamental decision-making rights a parent possesses. When reviewing these subjects be sure to understand the rights which matter most to you. Coming up with a plan while attempting to determine jurisdictional issues is challenging. However, it is crucial to the long-term success of your case. 

What are the different types of custody in a family law case?

Two types of custody matters in a child custody case. The first is legal custody. Legal custody refers to the sort of decision-making authority we just finished discussing. Often overlooked in a family law case, legal custody is the foundation of your ability to parent your child. So often we take for granted the ability to decide important issues in our children’s lives. This is exactly what legal custody has to do with. 

The other type of custody is known as physical custody. Physical custody has to do with the actual care and supervision associated with your children. When a parent has strong physical custody rights it is likely that he or she also possesses strong legal custody rights. The reason for this is that physical custody has a lot to do with the legal custody rights you possess. After all, you only have the right to physically possess your child when you have the legal right to do so.

What does the UCCJEA about establishing jurisdiction in a Texas child custody case?

A Texas child custody case is one where jurisdiction needs to be established. Making elaborate plans for a child custody case in Texas doesn’t make sense until jurisdiction is determined. As such, it pays to look at the UCCJEA to see how Texas gains jurisdiction in a child custody case. There are multiple ways for Texas to gain jurisdiction over your custody case. Let’s walk through each of those ways now. 

When Texas is the home state of your child then jurisdiction is appropriate here. Home state is defined as your child living here with you, your co-parent, or another person acting in that role for at least six months consecutively before the filing of your custody case. These six months must have occurred immediately before filing the custody case, as well. For children under six months of age, Texas is his home state if he has lived here since birth with you or your co-parent. 

Jurisdiction is still appropriate in Texas even when your child no longer lives here in certain situations. For example, if your child’s home state was Texas within six months immediately before the child custody case was filed. An additional requirement would be you or your co-parent need to still live in Texas. This would cover a situation where your child lived in Texas for an extended period but was removed from the state possibly in response to the childcare city case being filed here.

Other jurisdictional situations in child custody cases

it is also possible that neither of the above scenarios is relevant in your case. In that event, the state of Texas can still claim jurisdiction over an initial child custody case. This is true when no other state has either home state jurisdiction or jurisdiction based on the child living in that state for at least six months before The child custody case is filed.

As with many issues in the world of Texas family law, this is a very fact-specific scenario. Speaking with one of the experienced family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is sensible. Learning as much as possible about this area of the law before engaging in a case can save you a great deal of time and money.

What information is needed in a case involving the UCCJEA?

When filing a child custody case where you believe the UCCJEA is relevant there are steps you should follow. Providing the court with additional information within your petition is wise. This way the court is aware of all circumstances involving your child and is not caught off guard when it comes to this sort of subject matter. Your child’s current address is helpful. This is the basic indication of the state where your child lives. Any recent addresses for your child are also important. Going back at least five years is helpful for the court.

Since the people that your child resides with are also critical to know, add their names to the petition, as well. Certain jurisdictional questions hinge on whether a child has resided In Texas with a parent.

Are Texas courts able to modify out-of-state custody orders?

It is possible that a Texas family court can modify your childcare city orders From another state. This is true in limited circumstances where Texas has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody order in your case. This means your child must reside in Texas and have done so for at least six months before the filing of the child custody modification. Or, Texas may also have jurisdiction so long as your child has resided in Texas for at least six months before the filing of your case even if he or she no longer does reside in Texas.

Enforcing an out-of-state child custody order in Texas

as we have already discussed, the state of Texas has to recognize and enforce a child custody order under the terms of the UCCJEA. The laws of Texas would apply to the out-of-state custody order and any remedy available under Texas law is available when enforcing the out-of-state custody order.

How the UCCJEA impacts a custody case involving an emergency

Even if the state of Texas does not have jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination the state can exercise emergency jurisdiction. This occurs in extraordinary situations where your child is present in the state and has been abandoned here. In situations where you, your child, or their sibling has been subjected to mistreatment or abuse then the state of Texas can choose to exercise jurisdiction over this matter.

Above all else, when the well-being of your child is at stake you must be able to manage the case effectively. Enlisting the help of an experienced family law attorney is a tremendous advantage for you to have. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with us today here on our blog. We post relevant and interesting content each day of the week to help you learn as much as you are able about the world of Texas family law.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan    

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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