In 1892, a group of lawyers from all the states in the United States met
in Chicago to draft laws that would bring uniformity and clarity to state
laws and legislation. The group continues to meet to this day and is known
as the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. The
organization is non-profit, and helps states design laws where uniformity
(especially between states) is needed.
In 1997, the group met and drafted legislation of what is now known as
the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
The act is designed to help state court systems throughout the country
interact with each other in matters of child custody. The act determines
the jurisdiction of a court to make orders regarding the custody of children.
(Without jurisdiction, a court lacks the power to make and enforce any order.)
Prior to the UCCJEA, parents would take their children to different states
to get what they hoped would be favored treatment regarding custody, visitation
and child support matters. These actions would invoke courts in different
jurisdictions (that is, different states) to battle each other for uniform
and effective control. Now, with the UCCJEA, which state's court has
jurisdiction is determined and that state's laws control the custody,
visitation and support of the children.
Forty-nine states have adopted the UCCJEA as valid law. Massachusetts has
not adopted the UCCJEA, but has similar legislation providing the same
Because jurisdiction must be determined before a court can decide any child
custody matter, it is in the best interests of all parties to engage the
assistance of qualified family law professionals to navigate the UCCJEA.
Without knowledge of the UCCEA, a party needing legal help through the
court system, may not get it.