NO UCCJEA ALLEGATIONS = NO JURISDICTION? NO.
August 18, 2011 § 3 Comments
Lawyers are all over the ballpark when it comes to the UCCJEA allegations required by MCA § 93-27-209. Some still use the old and now-repealed UCCJA provisions that have apparently fossilized in their computers. Some omit them entirely. Some use a hybrid. And some even plead the proper provisions.
What happens when you fail to plead the UCCJEA provisions either completely or inadequately? Does the court have jurisdiction?
The MSSC answered the question in White v. White, 26 So.3d 342, 346 (Miss. 2010), where the court said:
First, the chancery court’s jurisdiction is set by the Mississippi Constitution, and cannot be diminished by statute. See Miss. Const. art. VI, § 159. Second, the plain language of Section 93-27-209(2) provides that, in the event the required disclosures are not filed, the court may stay the proceeding.
This issue is not jurisdictional, was within the sound discretion of the chancellor, and this argument is without merit.
The court rejected the appellant’s reliance on Marr v. Adair, 841 So.2d 1195, 1202 (Miss. App. 2003), because that case was decided under the repealed UCCJA.
Remember that under White, although the recitation of the jurisdictional language is not mandatory for the court to exercise jurisdiction, you still have to prove that the court has jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. When the MSSC said that “This issue is not jurisdictional,” it was referring to the matter at hand, which was the sufficiency of the pleadings, and not to the substance of jurisdiction in the case. It’s an important distinction. See, Miller v. Mills, decided by the COA May 3, 2011; you can read a post about the case here.
I have had lawyers move to dismiss at the outset of trial for incomplete or missing UCCJEA affidavit. I always overrule that motion and offer a continuance for the purpose of filing one, but I’ve never had anyone take me up on it.