Imagine that there is a prominent television actress that has been involved in a child custody battle for more than five years. When the divorce was filed, the actress and the children’s father both lived in Texas, which had jurisdiction over the case and granted the couple joint legal and physical custody.
Three years after the divorce, the husband, a French citizen, had his U.S. visa revoked and was forced to leave the country and return to France. Based on his claim that he would be unable to return to the United States to visit his children and other factors, the Texas court allowed him to take the children to live with him abroad where he maintains homes in both France and Monaco. The mother was granted liberal visitation, but she has been battling since then for custody of her children and to have them returned to live with her in the U.S. Meanwhile, the father files for full custody in a Monaco court.
Further imagine that both the Texas and the Monaco court continue to issue orders in the case. A court hearing will need to be scheduled in Texas, where the U.S. judge will have a conference call with the judge in Monaco. The hearing is expected to resolve the jurisdictional conflict as the two judges will discuss which court has the more appropriate jurisdiction for the case and ultimately, which court is more proper to make a ruling on custody in this case.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)
Custody issues become extremely complex when two different states or, as in this case, one state and another country are involved. There are various laws that may be applied, like The Hague Convention, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). They all have various applications to multiple jurisdiction cases. Under both the UCCJA and UCCJEA, when cases are pending in the U.S. and a foreign country, the U.S. judge cannot proceed without discussing the case with the foreign judge and decide which court will decide the issues.
Child custody issues involving two jurisdictions are complicated. Attorneys experienced with the provisions of the UCCJEA can help simplify and ease the process.