When your divorce court finally established your official divorce decree, you might not have been too happy with its terms. You might have thought that it could be a good idea to move to a different state and have your new state’s courts modify the order so that you can get a greater share of time with the kids. However, there are a few things you should know before you make the move.
Every state in the United States, including New Jersey, has adopted a statute called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The purpose of this statute is to make sure that states are upholding divorce decrees that other states’ courts have established.
In other words, if you get divorced in New Jersey and then move to Pennsylvania, any Pennsylvania court you go to will enforce your New Jersey decree, and can’t modify it. This is because, under the Act, the New Jersey court maintains jurisdiction over your divorce and child custody case, except in a few special circumstances.
If both parents and the children no longer live in the state where the divorce occurred, and they have no contacts with the state, then a new state can gain jurisdiction over the case.
In other words, even if you bring your kids with you to Pennsylvania, New Jersey will retain jurisdiction while your ex-spouse lives there, and while the kids still return there for visits. However, if your ex-spouse leaves New Jersey, then you’d stand a better chance of getting another state’s court to gain jurisdiction.
The UCCJEA serves an important function. It exists to discourage parents from absconding with their children and taking them to other states to get a modification to their divorce decree. It’s important that you know how the statute works before you plan a move.