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Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

Houston is only a few hours away from Louisiana, but it is not uncommon for spouses who once resided in Texas to relocate to other states or possibly other countries following a divorce. When a couple is in the midst of a divorce and the spouses are each residing in different states, it can cause numerous problems if each spouse files legal actions in different states.

Interstate custody issues are generally governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), a Uniform Act that has been adopted by the District of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and every state in the nation except for Massachusetts. The UCCJEA—which Texas adopted under Chapter 152 of the Texas Family Code—essentially determines which state has exclusive continuing jurisdiction for child custody litigation.

Lawyer for UCCJEA Issues in Houston, TX

If you are dealing with any kind of interstate child custody issue in Southeast Texas, it will be in your best interest to seek legal representation. Sydow Law Firm handles UCCJEA cases for clients in Houston and several other nearby areas in Fort Bend County and Harris County.

Michael Sydow is an experienced divorce attorney in Houston who is a Fellow for both the Texas Bar Foundation and the Houston Bar Foundation. You can have our lawyer review your case and help you understand all of your legal options when you call (713) 622-9700 to schedule a free initial consultation.

Harris County UCCJEA Information Center

UCCJEA Jurisdiction in Texas

Texas Family Code § 152.201 establishes that a Texas court has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination only if:

  • 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;
  • a court of another state does not have jurisdiction under Subdivision (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 Texas Family Code § 152.207 (relating to inconvenient forum) or Texas Family Code § 152.208 (relating to jurisdiction by reason of conduct), and 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 substantial evidence is available in this state concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships;
  • all courts having jurisdiction under Subdivision (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 Texas Family Code § 152.207 or 152.208; or
  • no court of any other state would have jurisdiction under the criteria specified in Subdivision (1), (2), or (3).

Under Texas Family Code § 152.202, a Texas court that has made a child custody determination consistent with Texas Family Code § 152.201 or Texas Family Code § 152.203 (relating to jurisdiction to modify determination) has exclusive continuing jurisdiction over the determination until (1) a Texas court determines that neither the child, nor the child and one parent, nor the child and a person acting as a parent, have a significant connection with this state and that substantial evidence is no longer available in this state concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships, or a Texas court or (2) the court of another state determines that the child, the child’s parents, and any person acting as a parent do not presently reside in this state.

Texas Family Code § 152.203 provides that a Texas court cannot modify a child custody determination made by the court of another state unless a Texas court has jurisdiction to make an initial determination under Section 152.201(a)(1) or (2) and the court of the other state determines it no longer has exclusive continuing jurisdiction or that a Texas court would be a more convenient forum; or a Texas court or a court of the other state determines that the child, the child’s parents, and any person acting as a parent do not presently reside in the other state.

Under Texas Family Code § 152.204(a), a Texas court has temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child is present in this state and 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. When there is no previous child custody determination that is entitled to be enforced under Chapter 152 of the Texas Family Code and a child custody proceeding has not been commenced in a court of a state having jurisdiction under Texas Family Code §§ 152.201-152.203, Texas Family Code § 152.204(b) states that a child custody determination made under Texas law will remain in effect until an order is obtained from a court of a state having jurisdiction under Texas Family Code §§ 152.201-152.203. When a child custody proceeding has not been or is not commenced in a court of a state having jurisdiction Texas Family Code §§ 152.201-152.203, the child custody determination made Texas state law becomes a final determination, if it so provides and this state becomes the home state of the child.

Texas Family Code § 152.204(c) establishes that when there is a previous child custody determination that is entitled to be enforced under Chapter 152 of the Texas Family Code, or a child custody proceeding has been commenced in a court of a state having jurisdiction under Texas Family Code §§ 152.201-152.203, any order issued by a Texas court must specify in the order a period that the court considers adequate to allow the person seeking an order to obtain an order from the state having jurisdiction under Texas Family Code §§ 152.201-152.203. The order issued in this state will remain in effect until an order is obtained from the other state within the period specified or the period expires.

Under Texas Family Code § 152.204(d), a Texas court that is asked to make a child custody determination, upon being informed that a child custody proceeding has been commenced in or a child custody determination has been made by a court of a state having jurisdiction under Texas Family Code §§ 152.201-152.203, must immediately communicate with the other court. A court of this state which is exercising jurisdiction pursuant to Texas Family Code §§ 152.201-152.203, upon being informed that a child custody proceeding has been commenced in or a child custody determination has been made by a court of another state under a statute similar to this section must immediately communicate with the court of that state to resolve the emergency, protect the safety of the parties and the child, and determine a period for the duration of the temporary order.

Except as otherwise provided in Texas Family Code § 152.204, Texas Family Code § 152.206(a) states that a Texas court cannot exercise its jurisdiction under this subchapter if, at the time of the commencement of the proceeding, a proceeding concerning the custody of the child has been commenced in a court of another state having jurisdiction substantially in conformity with this chapter, unless the proceeding has been terminated or is stayed by the court of the other state because a court of this state is a more convenient forum under Texas Family Code § 152.207. Texas Family Code § 152.206(b) further notes that before hearing a child custody proceeding, the Texas court must examine the court documents and other information supplied by the parties pursuant to Texas Family Code § 152.209.

If the court determines that a child custody proceeding has been commenced in a court in another state having jurisdiction substantially in accordance with this chapter, the Texas court will stay its proceeding and communicate with the court of the other state. If the court of the state having jurisdiction substantially in accordance with this chapter does not determine that the court of this state is a more appropriate forum, the Texas court of this state must dismiss the proceeding.

Under Texas Family Code § 152.206(c), a Texas court must determine whether a proceeding to enforce child custody determination has been commenced in another state in a proceeding to modify a child custody determination. When a proceeding to enforce a child custody determination has been commenced in another state, the court can:

  • stay the proceeding for modification pending the entry of an order of a court of the other state enforcing, staying, denying, or dismissing the proceeding for enforcement;
  • enjoin the parties from continuing with the proceeding for enforcement; or
  • proceed with the modification under conditions it considers appropriate.

Texas Family Code § 152.207(a) also establishes that the issue of inconvenient forum can be raised upon motion of a party, the court’s own motion, or request of another court. Before determining whether it is an inconvenient forum, Texas Family Code § 152.207(b) states that a Texas court must consider whether it is appropriate for a court of another state to exercise jurisdiction and, for this purpose, must allow the parties to submit information and consider all relevant factors, including:

  • whether domestic violence has occurred and is likely to continue in the future and which state could best protect the parties and the child;
  • the length of time the child has resided outside this state;
  • the distance between the court in this state and the court in the state that would assume jurisdiction;
  • the relative financial circumstances of the parties;
  • any agreement of the parties as to which state should assume jurisdiction;
  • the nature and location of the evidence required to resolve the pending litigation, including testimony of the child;
  • the ability of the court of each state to decide the issue expeditiously and the procedures necessary to present the evidence; and
  • the familiarity of the court of each state with the facts and issues in the pending litigation.

UCCJEA Enforcements in Harris County

Texas Family Code § 152.303 establishes that a Texas court must recognize and enforce a child custody determination of a court of another state if that court exercised jurisdiction in substantial conformity with this chapter or the determination was made under factual circumstances meeting the jurisdictional standards of this chapter and the determination has not been modified in accordance with this chapter. The Texas court can utilize any remedy available under other Texas law to enforce a child custody determination made by a court of another state.

Under Texas Family Code § 152.304, a Texas court that does not have jurisdiction to modify a child custody determination can issue a temporary order enforcing:

  • a visitation schedule made by a court of another state; or
  • the visitation provisions of a child custody determination of another state that does not provide for a specific visitation schedule.

Texas UCCJEA Resources

Texas Family Code| Chapter 152. Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction And Enforcement Act — Texas adopted the UCCJEA effective September 1, 1999, and set it forth in Chapter 152 of the Texas Family Code. View all of the related statutes under state law relating to application and construction, general provisions, jurisdiction, and enforcement. You can learn more about definitions, simultaneous proceedings, and costs, fees, and expenses.

The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act | National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) — The NCJRS is the federally-sponsored program that shares publications and other information from the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) agencies and National Institute of Corrections (NIC). View the full text of a fact sheet that covers rationale underlying the UCCJEA, applicability of the UCCJEA, and jurisdictional provisions of the UCCJEA. You can also read a message from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

Find an UCCJEA Attorney in Houston, TX

Are you dealing with an interstate child custody issue relating to your divorce in Southeast Texas? You should immediately contact Sydow Law Firm.

Houston divorce lawyer Michael Sydow assists individuals in communities all over Harris County and Fort Bend County. Call (713) 622-9700 or submit an online contact form to have our attorney provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free, no obligation consultation.

Sydow Law Firm