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Interstate Family Law Jurisdiction Attorney Series Part 1

This article is the first installment in a series of articles written by Virginia C. Cornwell, an Ohio Child Custody Jurisdiction Attorney and an Ohio State Bar Association Certified Family Relations Specialist.  This article pertains to intestate custody jurisdiction and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which has been adopted as law in the state of Ohio and the majority of U.S. states.

THE UCCJEA and Ohio Law –

There is no more general custody jurisdiction in Ohio,

not even in Juvenile Court.  There hasn’t been for years.

Once upon a time, in the land of Ohio, the law used to follow the UCCJA.  Now, this law caused all sorts of chaos in the courts of Ohio and many other states that followed this law. You see, this law had “loopholes”, and led to many jurisdictional battles over which state properly had jurisdiction over the custody of a child. Unfortunately, the UCCJA did not conform with a federal law called the PKPA (Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act), which basically said three important things:

· For INITIAL (first time) custody orders, “home state” jurisdiction trumps “significant connection”, jurisdiction and

· Any custody order which was made pursuant to a law that does NOT follow the home state trumps significant connection requirement was NOT entitled to full faith and credit in other states. This means that if you went and got a custody order in a state other than the state where you should have, no other state has to honor and enforce that order.

· Jurisdiction to MODIFY a custody order stays with the state that initially made the order until everyone has relocated to another state

The UCCJA was a sticky problem for Ohio, and so they changed their law in 2005 and adopted the UCCJEA (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act). Along with many other changes to the law, the UCCJEA clarified that Ohio MUST exercised jurisdiction over any custody proceeding in compliance with the UCCJEA.

Prior to the enactment of Substitute Senate Bill 185, Ohio Revised Code 2151.23(A) was often interpreted to be a “general jurisdiction statute”, which gave the juvenile court jurisdiction over any child who was not already a ward of another court of the state. Unfortunately, this language opened the door to a lot of frivolous custody litigation in which Ohio did NOT rightfully have jurisdiction. When the UCCJEA was adopted in Ohio, ORC 2151.23 was also changed, and a section was added to make it clear that Ohio juvenile courts MAY NOT exercise jurisdiction over a child for an initial custody determination if the child has another “home state” as that term is defined by the UCCJEA, adopted in the Ohio Revised Code as Chapter 3127.

The only exception to this is when Ohio has emergency jurisdiction, and even then, emergency jurisdiction is only temporary until a proceeding can be filed in the child’s home state.