In this age in American society, it is common for parents to be divorced or separated and in many cases, there are disputes over custody of the children. Sometimes, a key question in the case is which court will decide the case? To bring order across America in deciding which court should have jurisdiction of the case, there was created the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA).
First, what are Uniform Laws? These are not federal laws. Congress does not generally get involved in laws regarding marriage and domestic relations and a lot of other things. Uniform laws are laws on a particular subject that are adopted identically by the individual states. Generally, each state version of a uniform law is identical - that's why they are called uniform. There is a non-governmental body called the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws . This body, established in 1892, is composed of lawyers who are in private practice, legislators, legislative staff and judges who draft and promote uniform statutes in subject areas where having uniform state laws is desirable. The NCCUSL drafts such laws and then works to get them adopted in the various states. One can see the need to have uniformity in how to decide which court should decide child custody disputes - even if the laws in the various states regarding child custody itself are different.
Getting back to child custody, the UCCJA provides a set of rules so that in any case, it should be possible to resolve which state has jurisdiction over the custody of a child. The main deciding factor for jurisdiction is which state is a child's "home state." As provided in the Pennylvania version of the law:
This Commonwealth is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding or was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from this Commonwealth but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in this Commonwealth;
Readers should not solely rely on this note but should consult with a competent attorney licensed in their state. You can also find more information in my firm's websites on Family Law and Wills and Estate Planning and Administration and Social Security.