USA: 1999 Amendment to the United States UCCJEA

1999 Update to SB668, US Senate
Bill No: SB 668
Author: Sher (D)
Amended: 7/15/99
Vote: 21
AYES: Burton, Escutia, Haynes, Morrow, O’Connell, Peace,
Sher, Wright, Schiff
SENATE FLOOR : 37-0 (Consent), 5/13/99
AYES: Alarcon, Alpert, Baca, Bowen, Brulte, Burton,
Chesbro, Costa, Dunn, Escutia, Figueroa, Hayden, Haynes,
Hughes, Johannessen, Johnson, Johnston, Karnette, Kelley,
Knight, Leslie, Lewis, McPherson, Monteith, Morrow,
Mountjoy, Murray, O’Connell, Peace, Polanco, Poochigian,
Rainey, Schiff, Sher, Solis, Vasconcellos, Wright
NOT VOTING: Ortiz, Perata, Speier
ASSEMBLY FLOOR : 77-0, 8/26/99 (Passed on Consent) – See
last page for vote
SUBJECT : Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and
Enforcement Act
SOURCE : California Commission on Uniform State Laws
DIGEST : This bill repeals the Uniform Child Custody
Jurisdiction Act and enacts the Uniform Child Custody
Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. The Uniform Child
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Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act conform current
California law (the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act)
to key provisions of the federal Parental Kidnapping
Prevention Act. The new Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction
and Enforcement Act gives priority jurisdiction to courts
in a child’s home state and limit child custody
jurisdiction to one state until all parties have exited the
initial state in which jurisdiction is established. The
bill provides for enforcement of child custody orders in
interstate disputes.
Assembly Amendments moved the legislative intent language
to another section of the bill.
Home State Priority
Existing law pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody
Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) provides four bases for taking
jurisdiction over a child custody dispute: the child’s
home state; significant connection between the state and
parties to a child custody dispute; emergency jurisdiction
when the child is present and the child’s welfare is
threatened; and, presence of the child in the state when
there is no other state with another sound basis for taking
jurisdiction. Under the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act
(PKPA), the child’s home state is so significantly better
than any other jurisdiction, that it should always be the
priority ground. Thus, under PKPA, home state always has
the first opportunity to take jurisdiction.
This bill conforms state law to the PKPA, providing that
any state that is not the “home state” of the child shall
defer to the “home state,” if there is one, in taking
jurisdiction over a child custody dispute. Temporary
emergency jurisdiction may be taken by a state not the home
state, but only to secure the safety of a threatened
person and to transfer the proceeding to the home state.
Emergency Jurisdiction
Existing law , under the UCCJA, provides that the grounds
for taking emergency jurisdiction are on an equal footing
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with the other grounds for taking jurisdiction, including
the “home state” ground.
This bill provides for temporary emergency jurisdiction,
that can ripen into continuing jurisdiction only if no
other state with grounds for continuing jurisdiction can be
found or, if one is found, that state declines to take
Continuing Exclusive Jurisdiction of State that Entered
Existing law , under the UCCJA, allows jurisdiction to shift
if the initial ground for taking jurisdiction ceases to
exist. Thus, if a state takes jurisdiction over a child
custody dispute because it is the home state of the child
and the child subsequently moves to a new state,
jurisdiction can shift to the new home state, even if one
parent remains in the child’s original home state.
This bill provides for exclusive continuing jurisdiction
for the state that entered the decree until every party to
the dispute has exited that state. This, the National
Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws states,
provides the clear basis for a court to relinquish
jurisdiction and solves the problem of parties being left
with no court to hear a dispute if a court declines
jurisdiction after only informal contact with another
Enforcement Provisions
Existing law currently provides no uniform method of
enforcing custody and visitation orders validly entered in
another state. While both the UCCJA and the PKPA direct
the enforcement of visitation and custody orders, neither
act provides enforcement procedures or remedies.
This bill provides several remedies for the interstate
enforcement of a custody determination:
1.A procedure for registering a custody determination in
another state.
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2.A court procedure for the consideration and resolution of
the enforcement of orders along the lines of habeas
3.A warrant may be issued by the enforcing court to take
physical possession of a child if the court is concerned
that the parent with the child will flee or harm the
child, along with a petition for an expedited proceeding.
4.A role for public authorities, such as prosecutors, in
the process of enforcing custody and visitation orders.
Specification of Coverage
Under existing law there is no consensus on whether the
UCCJA applies to cases involving neglect, abuse,
dependency, wardship, guardianship, termination of parental
rights, and protection from domestic violence proceedings.
This bill provides a broad definition of coverage that,
with the exception of adoption, includes virtually all
cases that can involve custody of or visitation with a
child as a “custody determination.”
Role of “Best Interests”
Under existing law there exists “best interest” language in
the jurisdictional section of the UCCJA.
This bill eliminates the term “best interest” in order to
clearly distinguish between the jurisdictional standards
and the substantive standards relating to custody and
visitation of children where the best interest standard is
appropriate. The “best interest” language in the
jurisdictional section of the current UCCJA is often
misused to attempt to override jurisdictional
determinations, arguing that the best interest of the child
should control such decisions.
This bill states that it is the interest of the Legislature
that the grounds on which a court may exercise temporary
emergency jurisdiction be expanded. It is from the intent
that these grounds include those that existed under Section
3403 of the Family Code, as that section read on December
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31, 1999, particularly including cases involving domestic
The bill states that it is the intent of the Legislature in
enacting the provisions of this bill that the grounds on
which a court may exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction
be expanded. It is further the intent of the Legislature
that these grounds include those that existed under Section
3403 of the Family Code as that section read on December
31, 1999, particularly including cases involving domestic
In 1968, the Uniform Law Commissioners promulgated the
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Action (UCCJA). By
1981, every state had adopted the Uniform Act. The UCCJA
was designed to discourage interstate kidnapping of
children by their non-custodial parents. Before the UCCJA,
it was easier for non-custodial parents to take children
across state lines in an attempt to find sympathetic courts
willing to reverse unfavorable custody orders.
In 1980, Congress adopted the Parental Kidnapping
Prevention Act (PKPA) to address the interstate custody
jurisdictional problems that continued to exist after the
adoption of the UCCJA. Despite the UCCJA, some states
continued to modify out-of-state custody orders, refusing
to give the orders deference under the Full Faith and
Credit Clause of the Constitution of the United States.
The PKPA was an effort to put the weight of full faith and
credit behind the principles of the UCCJA.
Unfortunately, there are two fundamental differences in the
two acts, based on application of jurisdictional
principles. These differences are:
1.The UCCJA does not give first priority to the “home
state” of the child in determining which state may
exercise jurisdiction over a child custody dispute. The
PKPA does.
2.The PKPA provides that once a state has exercised
jurisdiction, it maintains continuing, exclusive
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jurisdiction until every party to the dispute has exited
that state. The UCCJA simply states that a legitimate
exercise of jurisdiction must be honored by any other
state until the basis for that exercise of jurisdiction
no longer exists.
According to the Uniform Law Commissioners, in practice,
the two acts tend to work together for the most part, but
the differences do confuse the adjudication and settlement
of child custody disputes in certain cases. This bill
would replace the existing UCCJA with a new Uniform Child
Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The new
UCCJEA would reconcile UCCJA principles with the PKPA. It
would also add a section dealing with interstate civil
enforcement for child custody orders. Neither the current
UCCJA nor the PKPA address this important issue at this
With the exception of changes in one provision, this bill
mirrors SB 1717 (Sher) of 1998. The Governor’s veto
message referred to problems which have been corrected in
this bill.
The comment of the National Conference of Commissioners on
Uniform State Laws tot he section of the UCCHEA states the
purpose of the Act.
1.Avoid jurisdictional competition and conflict with courts
of other States in matters of child custody which have in
the past resulted in the shifting of children from state
to state with harmful effects on their well-being.
2.Promote cooperation with the courts of the states to the
end that a custody decree is rendered in that state which
can best decide the case in the interest of the child.
3.Discourage the use of the interstate system for
continuing controversies over child custody.
4.Deter abductions of children.
5.Avoid relitigation of custody decisions of other states
in this state.
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6.Facilitate the enforcement of custody decrees of other
At this time approximately ten (10) states have introduced
legislation to adopt the UCCJEA. As discussed above, the
UCCJEA primarily seeks to conform state laws to the federal
requirements of the PKPA. Thus, California would not be at
a disadvantage to pass the UCCJEA early in the process
since all states are already required to comply with the
requirements of PKPA. In other words, the federal
government has preempted the field in the interstate child
custody disputes with PKPA and thus the federal
requirements control when there is a conflict with state
law. Adopting the revised UCCJEA would simply remove the
confusion created by the inconsistent provisions of state
law and reduce the likelihood of inharmonious decisions.
Prior Legislation
SB 1717 (Sher), 1997-98 Session: Senate Floor Vote: 38-0.
Vetoed by the Governor.
The Governor’s veto message for SB 1717 (Sher) stated:
“…Most of the provisions of this measure are
unobjectionable. However, the section relating to the
first pleading in a child custody proceeding (3429),
contains ambiguous language that could lead to the
release of confidential address information. Domestic
violence shelters are understandably concerned that this
provision may allow their locations to be disclosed,
whereas under existing law no such possibility exists?.”
This bill has been amended to require that where there are
allegations of domestic violence or child abuse, any
addresses of the party alleging violence or abuse and of
the child which are unknown to the other party are to be
kept confidential and shall not be disclosed in the
pleading or affidavit.
The Governor’s veto message further objects to the
ambiguity of a provision in SB 1717 regarding an implied
“in camera hearing” to determine whether addresses and
other information should or should not be disclosed where
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allegations of domestic violence or child abuse had been
Under this bill, that objectionable provision has been
FISCAL EFFECT : Appropriation: No Fiscal Com.: Yes
Local: Yes
SUPPORT : (Verified 8/26/99)
California Commission on Uniform State Laws (source)
California Judges Association
ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT : The sponsor of the bill, the
California Commission on Uniform State Laws, contends that
the UCCJEA, the UCCJA and the PKPA are necessary because
Americans are very mobile and seldom stay in one state.
Child custody disputes between parents are impacted by that
very mobility. When parents and children live in one
state, there is no dispute that the courts of that state
may take jurisdiction over any child custody matter.
However, when one parent has moved to another state, more
than one state may have the power to adjudicate a dispute
between the parties. If more than one state does exercise
its power, the competing decisions simply confuse, rather
than conclude, the dispute.
The potential confusion is exacerbated by the fact that
child custody orders are modifiable orders, subject to
reconsideration and change, until the children reach the
age of majority. A problem can arise when one parent and
the child moves to another state after the original order
was decided. The question becomes whether that second
state can modify the order of the first state and if so,
the question arises which order should be recognized and
enforced in the first and every other state.
Prior to uniform acts that apply to these types of
interstate custody disputes, the result was often parental
kidnapping of children to exploit the interstate confusion
of orders. The revised UCCJEA, along with the PKPA,
establishes clear bases for taking jurisdiction and
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provides rules that discourage competing child custody
This bill would give home state jurisdiction top priority
over all other jurisdictional bases. “Home state” under
the bill is defined as:
“…the State in which a child lived with a parent or a
person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive
months immediately before the commencement of a child
custody proceeding. In the case of a child less than six
months of age, the term means the State in which the
child lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned.
A period of temporary absence of any of the mentioned
person is part of the period.”
The UCCJA provided four independent and concurrent bases of
jurisdiction. The PKPA provides that full faith and credit
can only be given to an initial custody determination of a
“significant connection” state when there is no home state.
This bill would give top priority to home state
jurisdiction in the same manner as the PKPA, thereby
eliminating any potential conflict between the two Acts and
assuring that all orders issued in California are afforded
full faith and credit in all other states.
Proponents of this bill state that the impact of these
three changes, i.e., priority for home state jurisdiction,
continuing exclusive jurisdiction and temporary emergency
jurisdiction, is that orders made pursuant to the UCCJEA
will have the full weight of the Full Faith and Credit
clause of the U.S. Constitution behind them.
ASSEMBLY FLOOR : 77-0, 8/26/99
AYES: Aanestad, Ackerman, Alquist, Aroner, Ashburn,
Baldwin, Bates, Battin, Bock, Brewer, Briggs, Calderon,
Campbell, Cardenas, Cardoza, Cedillo, Corbett, Correa,
Cox, Cunneen, Davis, Dickerson, Ducheny, Dutra,
Firebaugh, Floyd, Frusetta, Gallegos, Granlund, Havice,
Hertzberg, Honda, House, Jackson, Kaloogian, Keeley,
Knox, Kuehl, Leach, Lempert, Leonard, Longville,
Lowenthal, Machado, Maddox, Maldonado, Margett, Mazzoni,
McClintock, Migden, Nakano, Olberg, Oller, Robert
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Pacheco, Rod Pacheco, Papan, Pescetti, Reyes, Romero,
Runner, Scott, Shelley, Soto, Steinberg, Strickland,
Strom-Martin, Thompson, Thomson, Torlakson, Vincent,
Washington, Wayne, Wiggins, Wildman, Wright, Zettel,
NOT VOTING: Baugh, Florez, Wesson
RJG:cm 8/26/99 Senate Floor Analyses
**** END ****

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