Applying UCCJEA To Let a Case Go

When parents (or those who want to be parents) are in different states, which state has jurisdiction to decide custody? In J.B. v. F.B. and A.B., Case No. 2040448 (Ala. Civ. App. November 18, 2005), the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals has reminded us that the rules are actually pretty simple.

According to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (adopted in 36 states, including Alabama), except in the rare case of an emergency declaration, Alabama has jurisdiction to decide custody 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 subdivision (1), or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this state is the more appropriate forum under [Ala. Code] Section 30-3B-207 or 30-3B-208, and:

a. The child and the child’s parents, or the child and at least one parent or a person acting as a 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;

(3) All courts having jurisdiction under subdivision (1) or (2) have declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that a court of this state is the more appropriate forum to determine the custody of the child under Section 30-3B-207 or 30-3B-208; or

(4) No court of any other state would have jurisdiction under the criteria specified in subdivision (1), (2), or (3).

This case had already been before the Appeals Court (J.B. v. A.B., 888 So. 2d 528 (Ala. Civ. App. 2004), and the Appeals Court had already determined that the child’s home state was Missouri. After the first trip to the Appeals Court, however, the Etowah County Probate Court heard testimony and granted adoption of the child to the mother’s husband’s sister and her husband, even though proceedings were already underway in Missouri concerning the child.

The Appeals Court in this case found that no facts had intervened to change the child’s home state from Missouri to Alabama and that, consequently, the Alabama court still lacked jurisdiction. Because it attempted to act without jurisdiction, its order granting the adoption was void. The Appeals Court ordered the Etowah County Probate Court to set aside its “void judgment.”

7 comments

  1. jd says:

    how do you get around the UCCJEA when the home state is established in one state but you want to move it to another one?????

  2. DM says:

    How does the UCCJEA apply in Alabama when the child and parties have moved to
    Alabama from another nearby adjoining state, and there are remaining issues before the original decree court? Mother filed a Petition in AL, but she also appealed an Order from original decree state. The Appellant Court in the original state remanded issues back to the trial judge consistent with their opinion. That hearing hasn’t happened yet, however it was scheduled upon notification of the petition filing in Alabama.

  3. LRyon says:

    What if the mother has kept the father from visitation by collusion with the Grandma? What if the Father had to relocate to another state in order
    to find employment that afforded him pay child support order? What if the mother has alcoholic problems and her mother files a exparte restraining order
    and petition’s against the mother and father and for custody of Child? Does the father have rights to gain custody of the child and mover her to the state
    in which he resides? what are his chances provided he has no criminal, record has a seen the daughter and or tried to keep steady contact with the child
    even though the grandmother and mother collude to prevent him visitation?

  4. D says:

    A long complicated Custody jurisdictional issue with CA. The child has lived here in Alabama with the custodial Father, a life long resident of AL., since a CA. County Juvenile dependency court relinquished it’s jurisdiction over the child in 02 when the child was approximately 7 months old. The jurisdiction was released in a written court order. The non custodial Mother, a former resident of AL., did not meet reunification with the child and therefore had no physical custody, only supervised visits. Very soon after the CA. dependency court relinquished it’s jurisdiction,and the child was in AL. the Mother filed a motion in a CA. Family court for custody of the child. CA Family court was not the proper venue to regain the custody that she had lost in dependency court. The Mother had the opportunity to have the dependency case stay in Juvenile court for another 6 months while she had another chance to do drug rehab and meet reunification but she declined the courts offer. She also had the right to appeal the Juvenile dependency court’s order of custody to the Father but did not. As you know Family court Judges have a lot of leeway and disgression, so a CA. Family court Judge decided to hear the custody case, a custody case that had just been decided by Juvenile dependency court a month before where the Mother was deemed unfit for unsupervised visits much less custody. The Father recieved a summons to appear in CA. Family court with the child and he took the summons to his County court here in AL.the Judge here in AL.determined that AL. had jurisdiction as she saw the CA. Dependency order relinquishng jurisdiction. The AL. Judge contacted the Judge in CA.and none of this conversation was recorded. But according to the Father’s Attorney, who was pacing back and forth between his client and the Judge’s chambers,the CA. Judge told the AL. Judge that she just wanted to set a less broad visitation schedule and that the Mother was in no condition to travel to Alabama at that time ( Meth will do that to you ) The Alabama Judge told the Father to go to court in CA.to set the schedule for visitation and return to her courtroom with the visitation schedule, that this would be a one time court appearance in CA. Family court. The Father went to CA. Family court and the CA.Judge ordered him turn the child over to the Mother for visitation, unsupervised visitation. When the Father pointed out that the Mother wasn’t to have unsupervised visitation the Judge told him that the Mother was taking the child to her Mother’s house for supervision. This was around 11 am and the Grandmother didn’t get home until around 5pm. Once the Father made an appearance this CA. courtroom CA. had jurisdiction and keep it until the child was 4 years old a which time the Mother’s parental rights were finally terminated. The Mother stopped seeing or contacting the child a year before her rights were terminated but the child lived through pure hell at the hands of his Mother and her associates for the first three years of his life. The Mother is now serving her second prison term in maximum security prison in CA.and before that she was in and out of jail like a revolving door.

  5. Maree says:

    A father in texas has been seperated from wife since 2006. Wife lives in Minnesota and the father has keep the children in texas. Mother has children during summers and christmas vacations. July 2010 mother decided she wants to keep children in minnesota and files an exparte protection order for domestic abuse with allegations of father abusing wife from 2004 to present. Allegations are false father lives in texas and has had little to no physical contact except exchanging children in airports or hotels for visits on a few occassions. The exparte protection order for domestic abuse was filed one week before children where to return to texas. When children were not returned father filed for divorce and custody in texas August 2010.
    Father attened a hearing for exparte orders in minnesota on August 23 2010 and hearing was continued until Sept 8 2010. Mother was served in minnesota with texas divorce and custody petition hearing dated Sept 1 2010. Mother did not show up for texas hearing and father was granted temporary custody in Texas. My question is which parent has legal custody now. Will the no show at texas hearing affect the hearing in minnesota negatively on the mothers behalf. Which order has jurisdication?

  6. Lee Borden says:

    I don’t know. I’m not familiar with either state’s law, and it’s not clear to me from your facts what happened in what sequence. I’m sorry.

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