New Jersey adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) in 2004, replacing the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) in an effort to facilitate cooperation between courts of other states to ensure that the state best able to decide a given custody matter actually makes that decision.  The UCCJEA was recently at the forefront in Dalessio v. Gallagher and Jacobs, a new reported (precedential) decision from the Appellate Division.

To ensure that the state most capable of deciding a custody matter has jurisdiction to hear the case, the UCCJEA gives priority to the "home state."  The statute provides as to the "home state" definition:

a.  . . . [A] court of this State has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination only if:

(1)  this State is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding, or was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from this State but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in this State;

(2)  a court of another state does not have jurisdiction under paragraph (1) of this subsection, or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction . . . and:  (a)  the child and the child’s parents, or the child and at least one parent . . . have a significant connection with this State other than mere physical presence; and (b) substantial evidence is available in this State concerning the child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships[.]

b.  Subsection a. of this section is the exclusive jurisdiction basis for making a child custody determination by a court of this State.

The "home state" is defined by the New Jersey law 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." Continue Reading Which State Decides Custody? New Appellate Division Decision Explores The Uccjea