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Is there a law that governs child custody issues nationwide?

Most divorced spouses in Arizona would agree that child custody is one of the most critical aspects after a divorce petition is accepted. To avoid confusion or unwanted incidents regarding child custody, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act was devised by the Uniform Law Commissioners -- by 1981, every state adopted the act.

Before the act was put in place, there were cases where the non-custodial parent kidnapped the child and moved to another state, expecting the courts in other states to change the custody order. With the implementation of this act, custody orders issued in one state protected a custodial parent from a change in another other state, as the state where the order was issued retained complete jurisdiction of the child custody case.

The UCCJA is different from the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act. The PKPA prioritized the home state of the child while determining the jurisdiction over a child custody dispute, but the UCCJA did not. The PKPA also allows the jurisdiction to be exercised until the time when all parties involved in the custody case lived in the state, whereas, the UCCJA allowed the jurisdiction to be honored in every state until the basis for the exercise of jurisdiction ceased to exist.

But none of these two acts addressed the interstate enforcement of child custody orders, which included visitation rights as well. As the laws of the states permitted interstate enforcement of child support orders, a new act called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act was created in 1995. This act is essentially a combination of UCCJA and PKPA, managing to complete the law regarding child support.

These acts are important primarily because of the mobile nature of Americans, who often move across states for jobs and other commitments. Implementation of these prevents the complications that arise in child custody cases, when parents live in different states and the respective courts of those states take jurisdiction over child custody matters. These also help in sorting out the confusions that may arise during child custody modification petitions.

Source: UniformLaws.org, "Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Summary," Accessed on April 24, 2015

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