New Jersey has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act or “UCCJEA” (N.J.S.A. 2:A34-53 et. sq.). Under the UCCJEA, New Jersey has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination only if New Jersey is the home state of the child for six months at the commencement of a proceeding and a court of another State has declined to take jurisdiction. If the child has not resided in New Jersey for six months or another state has already taken jurisdiction, New Jersey cannot make a custody determination. Of course, there is an exception for when the child has “been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child, or a sibling or parent of the child, is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.”
The UCCJEA prevents children from being wrongly removed from the State. If a person takes a child to a new state, New Jersey would generally still have jurisdiction for the first six months they live in the new state under the UCCJEA. Therefore, an application can be made for the child to be returned to New Jersey during this time period.
New Jersey also has a duty to recognize and enforce a custody determination of another state pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2:A34-77. To be enforced, the out of state order must be registered with the Superior Court of New Jersey. Once it is registered, a motion must be filed and then the New Jersey court can enforce the order as if it were a New Jersey order.
The UCCJEA is an effective tool to ensure that there is uniformity among the states with respect to custody and parenting time. The statute is complicated so contact me today before you proceed with your custody case.