NC has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The purpose of the UCCJEA is to avoid jurisdictional battles and encourage cooperation among states for litigation to occur where parties and children have the closest connection and to discourage relitigation, abduction, and the unilateral removal of children.
The UCCJEA provides four bases for jurisdiction over NC child custody matters. This state has jurisdiction:
- If it is the state in which the child lived for the six months immediately prior to the custody proceeding, i.e. the “home state”, or if the state had been the home state and the child is now absent because he or she has been removed by the individual seeking custody; or
- If it is in the child’s best interest because the child and one or both parents have a “significant connection” with the state and evidence relevant to the child’s present or future care, training, and relationships is available within the state; or
- If the child is physically present in North Carolina and has been abandoned or an emergency situation exists; or
- If no other state would have jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, or if another state has declined jurisdiction and it is in the child’s best interest for North Carolina to assume jurisdiction.
Additionally, certain limits on jurisdiction exist. The court must refuse jurisdiction if there was a pending custody action in another state when the petition was filed in North Carolina, so long as the other state’s exercise of jurisdiction conforms to UCCJEA requirements. Declining jurisdiction is also appropriate if the petitioner has violated another state’s custody decree unless the child’s best interests require that the North Carolina court take jurisdiction despite this violation. The North Carolina court also has the discretion to decide to refuse jurisdiction if the petitioner in an initial action has taken the child from another state wrongfully or North Carolina is an inconvenient forum for the action. With regard to the issue of modification of an existing custody decree, a court with jurisdiction may not modify the decree of another state unless the latter has lost jurisdiction or has refused to exercise it.
Jurisdictional issues are complex and sometimes difficult to understand. If you are involved in a child custody action and are confused as to what state is the correct place to file, please contact Emblem Legal, PLLC We will ensure that your case is properly filed in the correct jurisdiction and assist you throughout the remainder of your case.