Law Lessons from TERRI WATKINS v. KEVIN WATKINS, App. Div., A-5715-09T1, April 12, 2011: "The [UCCJEA] should be interpreted so as to avoid jurisdictional competition and conflict and require cooperation with courts of other states as necessary to ensure that custody determinations are made in the state that can best decide the case." Griffith v. Tressel, 394 N.J. Super. 128, 138 (App. Div. 2007). A primary objective of the UCCJEA is to prioritize home state jurisdiction for a state assuming jurisdiction of a child custody dispute. See Dalessio v. Gallagher, 414 N.J. Super. 18, 22 (App. Div. 2010). In relevant part, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-54 defines "home state" 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. The UCCJEA section that permits a state to assume initial child custody jurisdiction over an interstate custody dispute provides in pertinent part: a. [A] court of this State has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination only if: (1) this State is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding, or was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from this State but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in this State; (2) a court of another state does not have jurisdiction under paragraph (1) of this subsection, or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this State is the more appropriate forum … and: (a) the child and the child's parents, or the child and at least one parent or a person acting as a parent have a significant connection with this State other than mere physical presence; and (b) substantial evidence is available in this State concerning the child's care, protection, training and personal relationships; …. b. Subsection a. of this section is the exclusive jurisdictional basis for making a child custody determination by a court of this State. [N.J.S.A. 2A:34-65.] [U]nless the home state declines jurisdiction, a New Jersey court cannot assume "significant connection" jurisdiction over an initial child custody determination under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-65(a)(2) if another state has jurisdiction under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-65(a)(1) either as (1) the child's home state or (2) the child's home state within six months prior to the commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from the home state but a parent continues to live in that state. [Dalessio, supra, 414 N.J. Super. at 23.] The New Jersey UCCJEA statutes define "initial determination" as "the first child custody determination concerning a particular child"; "child custody determination" as "a judgment, decree, or other order of a court providing for the legal custody, physical custody or visitation with respect to a child," but "not … a provision relating to child support …"; and "commencement" as "the filing of the first pleading in a proceeding." N.J.S.A. 2A:34-54. Applications and provisions concerning child support are explicitly excluded from the UCCJEA's definition of "child custody determination," N.J.S.A. 2A:34-54. A state with "exclusive, continuing jurisdiction" over a custody dispute may relinquish or decline that jurisdiction if the child, or the child and one parent, no longer have a significant connection with the State and substantial evidence concerning the child's care, protection, training, and personal relationships is no longer available there. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-66a(1). However, only the State initially possessing jurisdiction may make that determination: [T]he UCCJEA and NJUCCJEA reserve to the state that has acquired "exclusive, continuing jurisdiction" the authority to decide whether it has expired due to lack of the requisite "significant connection" and "substantial evidence," UCCJEA, supra, §202; N.J.S.A. 2A:34-66a(1)[.] [Griffith, supra, 394 N.J. Super. at 145.] Note: There is a print link embedded within this post, please visit this post to print it. NOTE: This Blog/Blawg, NJ Family Issues, is managed by Paul G. Kostro, Esq., an attorney/lawyer/mediator in Linden, Union County, New Jersey. My legal and mediation services are offered to clients in Union, Middlesex, Somerset, Essex, Hudson, Bergen, and Morris counties in NJ. My legal and mediation services are offered to clients in Fanwood 07023; Garwood 07027; Kenilworth 07033; Mountainside 07092; New Providence 07974; Roselle Park 07204; Roselle 07203; Elizabeth 07201; Linden 07036; Plainfield 07060; Rahway 07065; Summit 07901; Westfield 07090; Berkeley Heights 07922; Clark 07066; Cranford 07016; Hillside 07205; Scotch Plains 07076; Springfield 07081; Union 07083; Winfield; Carteret 07008; Dunellen 08812; East Brunswick 08816; Edison 08817; Jamesburg 08831; Metuchen 08840; New Brunswick 08901; Old Bridge 08857; Perth Amboy 08861; Sayreville 08871; South Amboy 08878; South River 08877; Avenel 07001; Colonia 07067; Iselin 08830; Woodbridge 07095; Somerset 08873; Somerville 08876 and Watchung 07069, New Jersey. 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