The trial of a custody case is a very complex and emotionally challenging time during a divorce. The complexity of a custody case becomes even more difficult when the issue is not only which parent is going to obtain custody but also which State is going to make the determination regarding the custody of a child. Having been a family law and divorce attorney for over 41 years, I have been involved in many cases where due to job transfer or personal living choices the parents are living separate and apart. When there are children involved not only are the parents many time living in different states but the child or children may be living with one parent in Ohio or the converse occurs and the other parent is living ( with the children) in another state. The question then becomes does Ohio have the jurisdiction (authority) to make custody determination or does that authority rest with the state where the parent resides.
In order to assist the Court and the parties in determining which state court has the authority to determine custody Ohio as well as the other 49 states which comprise the United States have adopted what is called the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. This law which is commonly referred to as the UCCJEA is national in its scope and application and in Ohio it is found in Ohio Revised Code Chapter 3127. In April 2005 the Ohio Legislature adopted as the law in Ohio the provisions of the UCCJEA. In adopting the provisions of the UCCJEA the Ohio Legislature replaced an earlier interstate act called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act ( UCCJA).
The purpose of the UCCJEA is to resolve among competing states which state has the jurisdiction (authority) to make custody determinations. The core principle which is embodied within the UCCJEA is that Ohio ( or any other state presented with the issue of custody) has the authority ( jurisdiction) to make a custody determination if Ohio ( or another state) has been the child’s “ home state” for a period of 6 months preceding the filing of a proceeding which involves the determination of custody ( i.e a divorce action). (See Ohio Revised Code 3127.15 (A)(1). If Ohio has been the child’s home state for 6 months preceding the filing of a proceeding involving the determination of custody then Ohio has the authority to make decision regarding the custody of the child. On the other hand if another state has determined that it is the “home state of the child” then pursuant to the UCCJEA an Ohio is court is precluded from exercising jurisdiction over the custody of the child ( See R.C 3127. 20). Home state has been defined by Ohio Law as being “ state in which a child with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately preceding the commencement of a child custody proceeding and if a child is less than six months old, the state in which the child lived from birth with any of them. ( See Ohio Revised Code 3127.01(A)(6).
The UCCJEA which is national in scope also provides that if there is a dispute regarding the “ home state “ of the child between the Courts of Ohio and the Court’s of another state then the Judge, Magistrate or judicial officer assigned to the case in the respective states can communicate with each other in order to obtain information about the status of the case in the other jurisdiction in order to make knowledgeable decisions regarding the custody of a child( ren). See Ohio Revised Code 3127.09
The UCCJEA is a law which applies not only to what is called the initial determination of custody but also has application to the enforcement of custody orders issued in other states. Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 3127.33 a parent who has obtained a custody order in another state may seek the enforcement of that order within the State of Ohio. For example if a parent was granted custody of a child in another state and the non-custodial parent living in Ohio has possession of the child and refuses to return the child, the out of state parent who has custody can seek the enforcement of the custody order and return of the child by filing an action with the appropriate court within the State of Ohio. (See Ohio Revised Code 3127.33).
Also, by a recent amendment to the UCCJEA persons who have custody of their children pursuant to a custody order issued by foreign countries who are signatories to the Hague Convention on the International Abduction of Children can seek the enforcement of the foreign custody order and return of their children who have been wrongfully withheld and not returned. ( See Ohio Revised Code 3127.32)
Please feel free to call one of our attorneys to discuss your interstate or international custody matter.