UCCJEA: How It Can Help Texas Retain Jurisdiction A Child Custody Determination

In my previous post, I introduced the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act or UCCJEA.  In general, the UCCJEA’s central rule is that only the “home state” of the child has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination.  The “home state” is the state in which the child lived with a parent or person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months prior to divorce or other child custody litigation.  How does this legal scheme help Texas retain jurisdiction when a parent takes children across state lines?

Here’s a common scenario that might help explain.  John’s in the military and stationed at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio.  John and his wife Mary, and their two children, have been in San Antonio for the past two years.  Unfortunately, the marriage isn’t working out.  Mary decides to leave the marriage and “go home” to Nevada, taking the children with her.

Whether John files for divorce in Texas or Mary files for divorce in Nevada, only Texas has jurisdiction to make the initial child custody determination under the UCCJEA (which every state but Massachusetts recognizes) until the children have lived in another state (like Nevada) for six months.  The key point being that Texas is where the children lived with a parent for at least six consecutive months if John would decide to start litigation within weeks or a few months of Mary’s departure. 

UCCJEA jurisdictional matters can become quite complicated.  For now, speak with a qualified divorce attorney for more information about how the UCCJEA might impact your decision situation.

Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm.  The Cramp Law Firm provides a spectrum of family-related legal services in the greater San Antonio Region.