The UCCJEA is a complicated set of Utah Statutes that govern divorce and custody matters that cross state-lines. At this point, every state in the union has adopted this set of rules in some form. The first question that gets asked in such a case is whether Utah has jurisdiction to hear the case. Let’s go over the most important things:
Where Does The Child Live?
In Utah, there are three ways to get initial jurisdiction. The easiest way to determine whether Utah has jurisdiction over the child is to see where the child lives. In order to proceed in Utah (except under some limited cases we will cover later), Utah must be the home state of the child. To get a home state designation, the child needs to have lived in Utah for at least 6 months. Taking a vacation out of state during that 6 months does not count against the total.
If the above does not apply, you’ll need to make sure that another State does not have jurisdiction (such as where the child hasn’t lived anywhere longer than 6 months), and that there is some significant connection to Utah. If either of these two situations do not apply to you, you should speak to an attorney.
Is There An Existing Utah Order?
You can modify Utah orders in Utah even if the child hasn’t lived here for 6 months. Utah’s jurisdiction continues over any custody related matter they have ruled on until they decide they don’t. This means that if mom and child are living in Texas, and you’re still here in Utah, you can ask Utah courts to modify your custody order. However, be aware that Utah can give up jurisdiction willingly if no one lives in the state.
There’s An Emergency
In an emergency situation, Utah can exercise jurisdiction to deal with an abandoned child in Utah. Utah may also exercise emergency jurisdiction where it is necessary to protect a child from abuse or mistreatment. Any order issued by a Utah court will stay in effect until a court with jurisdiction orders otherwise. This order can become permanent if the right circumstances apply.
If you have any other questions about jurisdiction, please let us know!