Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Act
Colorado has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) governing interstate allocation of parental responsibilities (APR), AKA child custody orders. The act sets forth the requirements for Colorado to enter an initial custody order or to modify an order. Although parents can agree to jurisdiction in some legal matters, interstate child custody matters are an exception. Thus parents can not agree to a different jurisdiction that the UCCJEA dictates. Jurisdiction to issue an initial APR order and to modify one differ.General Definitions
A child is considered to be someone who is not yet age 18 as 18 is the age of majority.
The child's "home state" is where the child has lived for at least 182 days prior to a child-custody proceeding. If the child is under six months of age, it is where the child has lived from birth.
The child's home state will be relevant to jurisdiction as that is where evidence can be found about the child.Initial Entry Jurisdiction
There are different legal standards for the initial entry of an order and a modification. If no parenting order has been issued, then Colorado can enter a parenting order generally if:
- The child’s home state is Colorado.
- The child’s home state was Colorado within 182 days prior to initiation of the action and a parent lives in Colorado.
- No other state has jurisdiction or that state has decided not to exercise jurisdiction, and the child and a parent have a significant connection to Colorado, and “substantial evidence is available" in Colorado about the child.
- Colorado is a more convenient place to litigate the action, AKA "forum", and the state with jurisdiction has released it.
- Only Colorado has jurisdiction because no other state has jurisdiction.
After Colorado issues an APR order, jurisdictional requirements are different. Then Colorado keeps exclusive jurisdiction and can modify an order unless neither the parents nor children live in Colorado and/or no longer have a significant connection to the state. If Colorado has exclusive continuing jurisdiction, then only Colorado can release jurisdiction. Reasons Colorado might release jurisdiction are because the child and parents no longer have a significant connection, or another state would be a more appropriate forum.Modification Jurisdiction
Once another state has entered parenting orders, that state retains exclusive jurisdiction.
Colorado can only modify another's states order if:
- The other state court determines it no longer has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction.
- The other state court decides that Colorado is a more appropriate forum.
- The other state court determines that neither the child, the parents, or anyone acting as a parent lives in the other state.
- Colorado determines that neither the child, the parents, or anyone acting as parent lives in the other state. C.R.S. 14-13-203(1)(b).
Legal standards differ in emergency situations. A Colorado court has temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child is present in this state and is in danger. Usually this means that the child has been abandoned or subjected to or threatened with abuse or neglect. The Colorado order will be a temporary order until the issuing state takes action.
After issuing an emergency order, Colorado will determine if there is an order from another state in existence. If there is an order, Colorado will allow a reasonable amount of time for the parents to return to the state that has jurisdiction to address the matter there.
If there is no order, the emergency order will stand until the state with jurisdiction issues an order. If the issuing state never takes action, the temporary order continues.Inconvenient Forum
Even though Colorado or another state has jurisdiction to enter orders, that does not necessarily mean that the state is the most appropriate place to hear the matter. A state with jurisdiction can decide not to exercise it. Only the state with jurisdiction can decide whether to transfer it to the other state. The other state does not have the authority to decide that it is a more convenient forum and take away the original state’s jurisdiction.
Jurisdictional factors considered include:
- Whether there has been domestic violence, and if so, which state can best protect the child.
- Length of time the child has lived in the state
- Distance between states
- Parties’ financial circumstances
- Location of evidence
- Each state’s familiarity with the facts and issues
Divorce and family law matters are difficult to navigate alone. The court system is more complex than it should be. With offices in Colorado Springs and Denver, we can guide you through the experience by handling pleading and motion preparation and filing, negotiation, mediation, and court proceedings from start to finish. This allows you to focus on moving forward to a better future rather than on trying to figure out how the overly complex court system works. Remember that change often creates new opportunity and a better future. Janko Law can help ensure that your best interests and the best interests of your family are protected. Contact us at 720-780-0115 or complete our online form to set up a free thirty-minute informational consultation.