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Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

When filing a child custody case in Texas the first thing that you need to do is to establish that Texas has jurisdiction over the legal matter that you intend to file. Jurisdiction can be defined as the right of a court to hear and decide issues related to your case. In Texas, it is typically held that if you are a resident of the state of Texas and have resided here for the past six months the county where you are filing for the prior 90 days in Texas has jurisdiction over your case. in that case, you could file your child custody case here in Texas and expect that Court would be able to hear your matter and issue a ruling on it.

In determining whether Texas has jurisdiction over your child custody case many factors may need to be considered. Probably the most important factor is related to where the child in question has lived in recent years. For example, if you and your spouse got a divorce a few years ago and your child has lived in another state for a portion of that time since your divorce then there is a question as to whether Texas has jurisdiction over the case even if the child now resides in Texas. 

If you find yourself in a situation like this you may be asking how a Texas court, or any other court for that matter, could ultimately issue or decision. How are Texas courts able to work with the courts of other states to make decisions regarding Family law issues? The answer to that question is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, or UCCJEA. this uniform act passed by Congress can help you, your Co-parent, your child, and Texas courts when it comes to making decisions that are in the best interest of children.

What is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act?

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act is it law that applies to child custody cases that involve more than just one state. As I'm sure you can imagine, each state in the country has its family laws that apply to child custody cases. It can be confusing to be able to compare the laws of Texas against the laws of another state when it comes to child custody. While some components of the laws may be similar some may be different or even contradictory. With that backdrop, we can consider the benefits of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

In a situation where there is a conflict or lack of clarity on which states laws apply or which state has jurisdiction over a matter then the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act can solve this issue by providing you and your Co-parent with rules that can be used to determine which state has jurisdiction over your child custody case. Otherwise, you are left with a situation where you must leave it to individual judges in different states to make decisions. In that case, the circumstances of each court in the specific nature of Your case can influence the proceedings a great deal.

Specifically, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act applies only to child custody cases. An example of these types of cases involves custody, conservatorships, visitation, and things of this nature. This is a broad set of cases that can include suits affecting the parent-child relationship, modification, and enforcement cases. You and your Co-parent can have a dispute in any of these areas and have the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act applied to your case.

The first part of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act involves jurisdiction. This is the part of the law that will help determine which state has jurisdiction to make orders in your child custody case. If it is between Texas and another state, the UCCJEA can help you all to make that determination period from there you can have clarity on which states have jurisdiction in which do not.

The next part of the law covers enforcement of the state’s lawyer who has jurisdiction period namely, if you are attempting to enforce an out of state court order in a Texas court then the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act can't help you by determining how to apply the laws of that state against whatever situation or circumstance you are facing regarding child custody or conservatorships issues. Importantly, the state of Texas must have jurisdiction before can issue orders in your custody case. You can read more about the uniform child custody jurisdiction enforcement activities within the Texas family code.

When does the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act become relevant?

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act needs to be used to determine whether Texas has jurisdiction in your child custody case. This is especially relevant if your child, you, or your Co-parent reside in a state other than Texas. In that case, there may be some degree of discrepancy as to which state has jurisdiction over where you should file the case, to begin with. If so, you may end up filing your case in a court that does not have jurisdiction over your family or the subject matter. The result may be that you waste time and resources that could have been spent on your case in the correct jurisdiction. Bear in mind that jurisdiction issues can be brought up at any point in a case even upon appeal. This means that the case, even if it goes your way, the case can be taken away from you upon appeal based only on the court not having the legal right to make decisions. this is a situation that you should want to avoid.

At this point, I will stop our discussion only to say that the matters that we have been covering in today's blog post are complicated in terms of their being related to the Texas family code and complicated matters related to the law. if some of this is going over your head then I can't say that I blame you. It is highly recommended that you contact one of the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan so that we may discuss with you the information contained in this blog post as well as how it applies to your specific circumstances and family.

It is important to note that the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act does not apply to every situation involving child custody and your family. However, the type of cases that it does apply to is broad including temporary and final orders and issues involving both legal and physical custody of your child. Legal custody refers to managing the conservatorship of your child. Physical custody has more to do with the actual physical care and supervision of your child. Visitation relates to possession and access to your child on a more temporary basis.

The uniform child custody and jurisdiction enforcement act does not have anything to do with adoption, for instance. Another major area of family law that does not fall under the auspices of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Is child support. For many families, this is difficult to hear given that child support issues are among the most litigated and debated upon by families. With that said, child support matters would either be handled by the state of Texas or the laws of another state after coordination between Texas courts and an out-of-state court.

Here is how the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act determines whether Texas has jurisdiction in your original child custody case. A Texas court will have jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination if Texas is the home state of your child. What we then need to figure out is how Texas could be classified as a child's home state. The best rule of thumb to consider is that text is your child's home state if your child resided here without review or your Co-parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the child custody case was filed. If your child is under six months of age, then Texas could still be considered to be the home state of your child so long as your child has resided here since birth with one of their parents.

Texas could also be considered the home city of your child if your child has lived in another state other than Texas, but Texas was the child's home state within six months immediately before the child custody case was filed and you or your Co-parent still reside here. This would be the case where your child was taken by your Co-parent to live in another state after you filed a child custody case here in Texas. Although your child is not currently in Texas the fact that he or she lived here with you or your Co-parent before the case was filed would be a good indication that Texas is the home state of your child.

If you find yourself in a situation where neither of these two issues applies to your case, then the state of Texas may still have jurisdiction that is necessary for a Texas family court to decide in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship. This would be in a situation where no other state can claim jurisdiction under either of these factors. However, this is a difficult and extremely circumstance-based scenario. This means that it is recommended you speak with an experienced family law attorney before making any decisions to pursue a case like this in Texas.

How can you show a court that the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act applies to your case? 

Now that we have discussed some of the Ins and outs of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, you may be wondering how you would even bring this issue up to a family court judge to show that it might apply to your case. For the most part, it is your responsibility 2 let the court know that you believe but this act applies in your situation. For instance, if you are filing a suit affecting the parent-child relationship then you must include in your petition a statement of your child's current address, the places where your child has lived in the past five years as well as the names and present addresses of any people with whom your child has lived during those five years.

If you have a child custody order from a state other than Texas it is also possible that a Texas family law court could modify that order. This would be in a situation where the material substantial change in circumstances has occurred for you, your Co-parent, or the child. Typically, this is established by filling out an affidavit. An affidavit is a sworn statement under oath that details circumstances that become the basis of your modification petition. As with any family law case involving custody, it is recommended that you work with an experienced family law attorney to help assist you through this process. You can end up spending time and money on a case that has no merit whereas an attorney can help guide you from the beginning to help you avoid that outcome, if possible.

If you already have a custody order from another state, then a Texas family court must recognize and enforce a child custody order from that state. To enforce the custody, order the Texas judge can utilize any remedy available under the law in Texas. This means that while you may have an out-of-state court order a Texas judge would apply Texas law to the out-of-state court order. In this situation, you are best served by working with the Texas Attorney who may be able to consult with an out-of-state attorney from your home state to help you determine how Texas family law and the laws of the other state may interact and influence the outcome for your family. 

Additionally, you can register your out-of-state court order in Texas. To register your out-of-state court order in Texas you can go through some steps that can be helpful if you want Texas to enforce or state order. However, it is not required that you do so. To register your out-of-state court order in Texas you would need to contact the appropriate county or District Court. Included with the package of information you send to the court would need to be a letter requesting registration, two copies of the out-of-state court order that you want to register, and an affidavit stating that to the best of your knowledge the order has not been modified since the time that you attended court initially. Your name and address would need to be included in the letter along with the name and address five-year code parent.

What happens if Texas cannot make a decision in your case under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act?

One of the concerns that some parents have in your situation is what can happen if your child is in danger but the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act does not apply. In that case, the Texas court can exercise temporary jurisdiction on an emergency basis. This is true regardless of which state has jurisdiction to hear your child custody case. This happens frequently in situations where the child is in Texas and has been abandoned or it is necessary on an emergency basis to protect your child because he or she has been subject to abuse or neglect.

These are all incredibly fact-specific circumstances that are relevant to these considerations. Family law in general Is incredibly fact-specific and can turn on one or two issues that could be out of your control completely. When there are circumstances like this in play it is always a good idea to be able to work with an experienced family law training. Your family law attorney can provide you with advice on the laws of Texas and can help you to anticipate challenges to your case based on your existing court order as well as what a family court judge in Texas might do in response to the specific issues impacting your family. When it comes to the well-being of your children as well as your pocketbook, I cannot recommend strongly enough the benefit of consulting with an attorney before filing a case.

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. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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