New Jersey Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

Decisions involving New Jersey’s Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) are often very complicated matters that require courts to undertake an extremely detailed, fact-specific analysis to ensure that

During the early stages of my legal career, I had the opportunity to work on a tragic case, Khan v. Rajput, which resulted in the unpublished appellate decision,

The case centered around my efforts to facilitate the return of two young children to their father, Mr. Khan, after their mother removed them from New Jersey to Pakistan, without his consent. Ms. Rajput, then a medical student in the US, escorted the children back to her homeland to live with her family. After several months, she returned to the US without the children in order to complete her schooling. Upon arrival, she was arrested at the airport but patently refused to return the children to their father. She was subsequently released from custody, and we instituted trial court proceedings to ensure the children’s swift return. However, Pakistan’s unwillingness to be a party to Hague Convention meant that unless the case became a national story that it would be an uphill battle to compel their return.Continue Reading Child Abduction: Capital Anonymity. A True Story about the Hague Convention

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

The following entry was prepared by Eliana Baer, an associate in our Princeton office.

We previously blogged on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Abbott v. Abbott, which addressed the meaning of the “right of custody” under the Hague convention. There, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to the extent that it ruled that it a noncustodial father who had regular visitation rights with his child, shared in the right to determine the child’s residence, which constituted a right of custody under the Hague Convention sufficient to invoke enforcement under the Hague. As to the issue of the child’s removal over international borders, however, the Supreme Court the Court did not automatically order the child’s return to Chile. Rather, the Court remanded the for a determination by the trial court. Parents from New Jersey and other states are put in similar situations on a daily basis trying to have their children returned to them from foreign nations.

One such recent case is Fuentes v. Fuentes which arose under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA"), which is a statute that determines jurisdiction in custody disputes. In Fuentes, the Father, a United States citizen, appealed from a Family Part order that registered an order of the Venezuelan Court, obtained by the Mother, a Venezuelan citizen, and ordered her to return the parties’ son, born in the United States, to Venezuela. The Mother, who was born in Columbia, and Father, a citizen of Venezuela, were married in New Jersey in June 2003. Unbeknownst to the Mother, however, at the time of the parties’ marriage, the father was still married to another woman. The parties’ son was born in September 2003. Approximately three months later, they moved to Venezuela with their child so that the Father could operate a business he owned there. Both parties maintained that the move was temporary.Continue Reading Fraudulent Inducement to Marry Enough to Confer Jurisdiction in an International Custody Battle