When does the UCCJEA Apply? – Determination of Child Custody

Walters Gilbreath, PLLC

The Texas Family Code states that the UCCJEA applies to child custody determinations. A court order, judgment, or decree can constitute a child custody determination in the state of Texas. These documents must be related to the physical custody, legal custody, or visitation rights of a parent for a child. These determinations might be initial, temporary, permanent, or modified orders. The UCCJEA applies to any cases where one of these determinations is an issue. This might include:

On the other hand, the UCCJEA does not apply to situations of juvenile delinquency or enforcement provisions.

One of the goals of the UCCJEA is to help the practitioner figure out what the home state of the child is. “Home state” is a term that applies to the state where the child lived with their parent or guardian for at least six consecutive months. This six month period refers to the time period directly before the beginning of the child custody case. If the child is not yet six months old, the home state refers to the place where the child was born and lived since birth with at least one parent or guardian. “Living” in a certain state implies that they were physically present there, not just living there in theory. In fact, a physical location of the child is one of the central factors in determining a child’s home state.

When a child determination is made in a place that is considered home jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, that determination is binding. Decisions made in other states will not hold up or apply.

UCCJEA Outside of Texas

If you or your child’s other parent lives outside of the state of Texas, notice must be given. This usually occurs through the use of a citation forwarded to a constable of the other state. In other cases, it is possible to use facsimile or regular mail to give notice out of state. The major requirement for sending notice is that actual notice will be given to the out of state parent. In addition, proof of service can happen in a way that is authorized by the state of Texas or the state where service must happen. If the other party submits to the jurisdiction of the court, no notice is necessary.

The spouse or guardian who is not a resident of Texas has limited immunity when appearing in child custody proceedings in Texas. Still, that person isn’t immune from the service of process on a basis that is not a physical presence.

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