No Place Like Home

November 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

UCCJEA jurisdiction begins with a determination of the home state of the child. MCA 93-27-102(g) says:

“Home state” means the state in which a child lived with a parent or person acting as a parent for at least six (6) consecutive months before commencement of a child custody proceeding … A period of temporary absence of any of the aforementioned oersons is part of the period.

And most folks stop right there. If the child has been here six months, Mississippi must have jurisdiction. Most cases, however, are not so clear-cut. What about the familiar scenario where the child is taken from Mississippi to another state? How does that affect home state status? 

Consider this language from MCA 93-27-201(1)(a):

[A] court of this state has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination only if:

This state is the home state of the child on the date of commencement of the proceeding, or was the home state of the child within six (6) months before commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from the state but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in this state … 

So, if …

  1. It’s an original custody proceeding, and
  2. Mississippi is the child’s home state on the day the action is filed, or
  3. Mississippi was the home state of the child within six minths before the action is filed, and the child is absent from Mississippi, but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in Mississippi, then …

Mississippi does have jurisdiction. And, remember that UCCJEA jurisdiction is subject matter jurisdiction.

In the COA case of Jones v. McQueen, handed down November 12, 2013, the court affirmed the chancellor’s finding that Mississippi, not Alabama, had UCCJEA jurisdiction because Mississippi was where the mother and father had lived together with the child, and had been the home state of the child within six months before the action is filed. Although the child had been removed from Mississippi to Alabama by the mother, the father of the child continued to reside in this state. The facts of the case also established that the mother had periods of absence in Alabama during the six months, but that they were temporary absences, and she actually moved her personal effects out of the father’s Mississippi home when the parties finally separated.

The UCCJEA has many complexities. If you are not thorough in studying the code sections that apply, you might find yourself on the short end of the jurisdictional stick — which is a bad place to be.

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