THE UNIFORM CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION & ENFORCEMENT ACT – UCCJEA
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, or UCCJEA is a uniform act created to resolve conflicts between different jurisdictions (states) regarding child custody proceedings. Each state (except Massachusetts) has adopted the UCCJEA, including Hawaii, where it is located in Hawaii Revised Statutes section 583A. If two parties (usually the parents) live in two different states, it is common that each party wishes to have the custody dispute fought in their own jurisdiction. The UCCJEA (and here, the Hawaii UCCJEA, or “HUCCJEA”) provides the specific guidelines to the courts as to how the correct choice of jurisdiction shall be made. One of the primary factors is looking at which state the child(ren) lived over the six months preceding the court filings. This helps determine the child’s “home state.” Specifically, the Hawaii statute says:
Initial child-custody jurisdiction.
(a) Except as otherwise provided in section 583A-204, 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), 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 section 583A-207 or 583A-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 paragraph (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 583A-207 or 583A-208; or
(4) No court of any other state would have jurisdiction under the criteria specified in paragraph (1), (2), or (3).
(b) Subsection (a) shall be the exclusive jurisdictional basis for making a child-custody determination by a court of this State.
(c) Physical presence of, or personal jurisdiction over, a party or a child shall not be necessary or sufficient to make a child-custody determination.
Hawaii Revised Statutes, section 583A-201. Even in situations where Hawaii is the home state however, the Court here may decline jurisdiction if it determines that Hawaii is an inconvenient forum under section 583A-207.
Interstate custody fights, particularly the initial disputes over which state shall hear the case, are especially complicated, and individuals are advised to find attorneys that are experience in such matters. At Doi/Luke, we have an extensive track record in handling these difficult matters.