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How does the UCCJA protect custody rights?

When parents divorce, the situation is not always ideal for the parents and children involved. Because of this, divorcing parents in New Mexico and other states across the nation must take the time to develop a workable child custody plan. While joint custody is the most favorable option, co-parenting is not for everyone and, in some cases, the best interest of the children might prove that primary custody with one parent is more favorable.

In a custodial and non-custodial relationship, there are still rights afforded to the non-custodial parents. In most cases, this comes in the form of visitation rights. And, if a non-custodial parent lives in another state, divorced parents might have to be more flexible with their visitation or custody plans. Nonetheless, when custodial parents exchange his or her child or children with a non-custodial parent, it is likely that the custodial parent might stress some concerns regarding what the non-custodial parent might do or attempt to do.

In these matters, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act or the UCCJA works to protect the rights of custodial parents. How does the UCCJA protect custody rights?

First, this act, which was passed in 1968, was designed to discourage noncustodial parents from attempting interstate kidnapping of their children. Prior to this act, it was common place for non-custodial parents to take his or her children across state lines in attempt to find a sympathetic court to reverse his or her unfavorable custody order.

The UCCJA works to establish jurisdiction over a child custody case in one state and protects the order of that state from modification occurring in any other state, so long as the original state retains jurisdiction over the case. The idea is that if a non-custodial parent cannot seek modification of an existing custody order in another state, the incentive to run with the child is greatly diminished.

While the UCCJA works to protect the right of custodial parents, both custodial and non-custodial parents are afforded rights when a child custody order is established. If issues or disputes ensue following a child custody order being established, it is important that divorced parents are aware of the rights afforded to them. Taking proper and timely steps to understand his or her legal rights will also help protect the best interests of the children involved.

Source:, "Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Summary," accessed on Oct. 16, 2016

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