Jurisdiction in Multi-State Child Custody Cases

Jul 19

The S.C. Court of Appeals issued a decision earlier this week, Clay v. Burckle, in which it addressed the requirements of and interplay between the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA). Specifically, this case analyzes the circumstances under which a state may / may not exercise jurisdiction when another state originally issued a custody order.
The PKPA (28 U.S.C. § 1738A) mandates three criteria for a court to retain continuing jurisdiction:

  1. that the original custody determination was entered consistently with the provisions of the PKPA;
  2. that the court maintain jurisdiction under its own state law . . . ; and
  3. that the state remains the residence of the child or of any contestant.”

South Carolina’s version of the UCCJA (S.C. Code Ann. § 20-7-810(a)) provides that if a court of another state has made a custody decree, a court of this State shall not modify that decree unless:

  1. it appears to the court of this State that the court which rendered the decree does not now have jurisdiction under jurisdictional prerequisites substantially in accordance with this subarticle or has declined to assume jurisdiction to modify the decree, and
  2. the court of this State has jurisdiction.

Since the PKPA is federal legislation, its provisions will govern any conflict between it and the UCCJA. These statutes were enacted with the goals of:

  • avoiding conflicting custody decrees between states;
  • avoiding relitigation of custody decisions of other states in this State insofar as feasible;
  • facilitating the enforcement of custody decrees of other states.

As the Court of Appeals stated in a previous case, Widdicombe v. Tucker-Cales, South Carolina courts generally give great deference to the jurisdiction of the state that originally ruled on a custody matter, especially when that state attempts to exercise continuing jurisdiction over a custody decree on which it has previously ruled.
You can read the full opinion in Clay v. Burckle by clicking here.

Posted on 19 July 2006 Posted in Children | Procedure

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