What state has jurisdiction over Custody of my Children?

Due in part to the transient nature of modern society, Congress enacted legislation governing interstate custody disputes.  The two major legislative Acts are the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (“PKPA”).  At Broder & Orland, LLC were are well versed in the nuances of these Acts and have successfully litigated the issues in the various Judicial Districts.  This three (3) part series will explore the interplay between the UCCJEA, PKPA, and their major exceptions.

PART I – UCCJEA

All states except for Massachusetts have adopted the UCCJEA.  The Connecticut version of the UCCJEA is codified in Connecticut General Statutes (“C.G.S.”) § 46b-115.  Pursuant to 46b-115k, except in emergency purposes, Connecticut has jurisdiction to make an initial custody determination if:

  1. Connecticut is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the child custody proceeding;
  2. Connecticut was the home state of the child within six months of the commencement of the child custody proceeding, the child is absent from Connecticut, and a parent or a person acting as a parent continues to reside in Connecticut;
  3. A State other than Connecticut does not have jurisdiction under subdivisions (1) or (2), the child and at least one parent or person acting as a parent has a significant connection with Connecticut other than mere physical presence, and there is substantial evidence available in Connecticut concerning the child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships;
  4. A State other than Connecticut, which is the home state of the child, has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that Connecticut is the more appropriate forum under the UCCJEA, the child and at least one parent or person acting as a parent have a significant connection with Connecticut other than mere physical presence, and there is substantial evidence available in Connecticut concerning the child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships;
  5. All courts having jurisdiction under subdivisions (1) to (4), have declined jurisdiction on the ground that Connecticut is the more appropriate forum to determine custody; or
  6. No court of any other state would have jurisdiction under subdivisions (1) to (5).

The major factual dispute that arises out of a UCCJEA proceeding is: “what state is the ‘home state’ of the child?” C.G.S. § 46b-115a(7) defines “home state” as: “the state in which a child lived with a parent or person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding. In the case of a child less than six months old, the term means the state in which the child lived from birth with any such parent or person acting as a parent. A period of temporary absence of any such person is counted as part of the period.”

According to the Connecticut Appellate Court, with regard to whether a court has jurisdiction, “the traditional requisite for subject matter jurisdiction in matrimonial proceedings has been domicil.”  Juma v. Aomo, 143 Conn. App. 51, 57 (2013).  “To constitute domicil, the residence at the place chosen for the domicil must be actual, and to the fact of residence there must be added the intention of remaining permanently; and that place is the domicil of the person in which he has voluntarily fixed his habitation, not for a mere temporary or special purpose, but with the present intention of making it his home…A former domicil persists until a new one is acquired…. Therefore proof of the acquisition of a new domicil of choice is not complete without evidence of an abandonment of the old.”

Thus, the determination of “home state” is often a question of intent, which generally requires a hearing to establish the necessary facts.  Each case is unique, and some of the factors a court usually wants to know are: (1) where did the child attend school, (2) where are the child’s medical providers located, (3) where do the child’s lessons and competitions occur, (4) where is the parent registered to vote, (5) what state is the parent’s driver’s license, (6) what state did the parent file taxes and/or (7) what was the special purpose or reason for the temporary absence, if any?

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are experienced with the UCCJEA and its various exceptions. No two cases are the same.  We effectively advocate for our clients in cases of this nature by applying the appropriate provisions of the statute to the facts of each case.