Newly passed legislation will finally enact the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act as of August 28, 2009. Missouri was one of only three states that had not yet enacted the UCCJEA. This act will replace the current Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA).
The act limits child custody jurisdiction to one state, avoids competing orders, and provides enforcement provisions for child custody orders. The act further establishes orders of priority and guidance on issues regarding establishing initial custody determinations, continuing jurisdiction, modification of custody determination, and emergency orders.
Similar to the UCCJA, The UCCJEA establishes an order of priority for determining which state has proper jurisdiction to make an initial determination of child custody. The order of priority includes a determination of (1) the child’s home state, (2) the state in which the child and at least one parent have a significant connection and substantial evidence concerning the custody determination is available or (3) the state having an appropriate connection with the child.
The child’s home state is defined as the state where the child has lived with a parent for six consecutive months prior to the commencement of the proceeding, or since birth, for children younger than six months.
Once a state court has made a custody determination, the state keeps exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over all matters concerning the child until circumstances have changed regarding home state status, or there is no longer a significant connection to the state or evidence concerning the child’s custody is no longer available in that state. The circumstances are specified in the act.
Also, once a custody determination has been made, a court of another state does not have authority to modify the determination unless the state with jurisdiction determines that it does not have jurisdiction or any state court determines that the child, parents, or any acting parents do not reside in the state which currently has jurisdiction.
A state which does not otherwise have jurisdiction may enter a temporary emergency order if the child is in danger and needs immediate protection. After issuing the order, the state court should determine if there is an existing custody order from another state in effect. If there is an existing order, the emergency court must allow a reasonable time period for the parties to return to the state having jurisdiction and argue the issues to the court with jurisdiction.
If there is no previous child custody order in existence, the emergency court’s order will remain in effect until a determination is made in a court having home state jurisdiction over the child. If no determination is made and the emergency court’s state becomes the home state of the child, the emergency order becomes a final determination of custody.
Missouri has now also done away with the requirement that social security numbers be included in family law pleadings and judgments. Under the new law, parties will still file social security numbers with an information sheet, but that will be maintained by the court confidentially, and only the last 4 numbers will be included in the judgments or pleadings in the public record.