Joan Zorza


The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA") is the revised version The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act ("UCCJA"), which states are now being asked to adopt immediately in its stead. The UCCJA was the original model act for states to determine when they have jurisdiction to decide a custody case and when they must give full faith and credit to the custody decrees of other states. When the National Conference of Commission on Uniform State Laws ("NCCUSL") wrote the UCCJA in 1968, it sought to correct two major problems of its day: child abductions by family members and jurisdiction disputes arising in interstate custody or visitation matters. While these issues can arise independently, the NCCUSL correctly saw the two problems as often interrelated. Indeed, more than half of the nations's 350,000 annual child abductions occur in the context of domestic violence, most of them perpetrated by abusive fathers. These abductions have been found to be as traumatic to children as when they are abducted by strangers, with many developing post-traumatic stress disorder. This article explains exactly what the new UCCJEA does, focusing on its benefits and some problem areas for battered women. It discusses the history of the Act, including the difficulties with, and the inconsistencies between, the Act's predecessors, the UCCJA and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act. It examines the UCCJEA, detailing the expanded options available to battered women for temporary emergency jurisdiction, denial of jurisdiction by courts that ordinarily hold such jurisdiction and protections for victims and their children. It explains some of the enforcement provisions of the UCCJEA. The article suggests some changes to improve the UCCJEA. but concludes that despite some of the problems with the UCCJEA, even as currently written, it is a step in improving child custody jurisdiction and will better protect battered women and their children.

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