Determining Jurisdiction in Custody Cases Under the UCCJEA

When a parent relocates with minor children following the entry of custody orders, clients are often faced with the challenge of determining where to file post judgment motions.  A relatively recent decision rendered in the Superior Court of Norwich explains the court’s authority, or jurisdiction, in such instances.  In that particular case, the parties were the parents of one minor child.  Although the mother initiated the action, the parties eventually resolved their differences and entered into a comprehensive custody agreement which permitted the mother to relocate with the child to North Carolina.  Approximately eighteen months later, the father filed a motion for modification in Connecticut, presumably requesting that the child be transferred back to Connecticut to live with him on a primary basis.

The court explained that in determining whether it had continuing jurisdiction over the case, it must evaluate the factors set forth in the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, codified in Connecticut General Statutes §§ 46b-115 – 115jj.  Although the statute is relatively technical, generally speaking, under the UCCJEA, a court must consider where the child and the parents are residing, whether the child has a significant relationship with the parent living in Connecticut and whether evidence regarding the custody matter is still available in Connecticut.

In determining that it no longer had jurisdiction over this particular matter, the court found that following the parties separation, the child moved to North Carolina with the mother, that the child was residing there on a continuing basis and that the child was enrolled in school there.  Although the father had visitation rights in North Carolina, he failed to exercise those rights and as a result no longer had a “significant” relationship with the child.  The court further found that most of the information regarding the child (i.e., the child’s health and education) was in North Carolina and that substantial evidence concerning the matter was no longer available in Connecticut.

Should you have any questions regarding custody matters, please feel free to contact Attorney Joseph Maya.  He can be reached in the firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at jmaya@mayalaw.com.