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Child Abduction under the UCCJEA

Lisa and Chris have a one-year-old daughter together. Lisa and Chris have lived in Minnesota since before their daughter was born. Lisa recently split from Chris and has since been not allowing Chris to see his daughter. Chris has filed a Petition in his county's Superior Court in Minnesota to establish paternity and visitation rights to his daughter. Instead of responding to the Petition, Lisa packs up their daughter and absconds to Georgia. Chris is heartbroken and racked with emotion at the sudden absence of his daughter. What does he do now?

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA") governs state Courts' jurisdiction to make and modify child custody decisions. Under the UCCJEA, the home state of the minor child is the state in which the minor child has resided for the last six (6) months or the state in which the minor child has primarily resided since birth if the child is under six months old. The home state has jurisdiction to make custody determinations for the minor child.

After consulting legal counsel, Chris returns to the Court and pleads his case. The Minnesota Superior Court issues a pick up order for the return of the minor child to the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Court. The Court also temporarily gives Chris sole custody of his and Lisa's daughter. Excited, pick up order in hand, Chris flies all the way to Georgia to pick up his daughter. Chris arrives at the local Sheriff's department and is told "Sorry, we can't help you here. This is Georgia. That Order that you have is from Minnesota. There is nothing we can do to help you." Defeated, Chris leaves the Sheriff's department in low spirits unsure of his next steps.

Luckily Georgia, along with 48 other states, have adopted the UCCJEA. Pursuant to Georgia's Codified UCCJEA statute, O.C.G.A. § 19-9-93, "a court of this state shall accord full faith and credit to an order issued from another state and consistent with this article which enforces a child custody determination by a court of another state unless the order has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so."Pursuant to the statute, Georgia Superior Court judges are required to recognize and enforce a child custody determination of a court of another state if the latter court exercised jurisdiction in substantial conformity with the statute or the determination was made under factual circumstances meeting the jurisdictional standards of UCCJEA.

Chris consults with an attorney at The Manely Firm, P.C. who is well versed on the complexities of the UCCJEA and Georgia's adoption of the same. Chris's attorney files for emergency enforcement and recognition of the Minnesota order. After hearing the horrific story of how his daughter was ripped from his life, the local Judge grants Chris's petition and orders the Georgia Sheriff to assist Chris in retrieving his daughter.

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 19-9-83(b), "a court of this state may utilize any remedy available under other laws of this state to enforce a custody determination made by a court of another state."

Now, with Georgia Court Ordered assistance from the local sheriff's department, Chris picks up his daughter and they travel merrily back to Minnesota to begin establishing a new life. Lisa, who tried to ignore the courts and take matters in her own hands, is dumbfounded and upset that her plans to tear Chris and his daughter apart did not work. Lisa is sad. Lisa has lost. Don't be like Lisa.

If this story hits a little too close to home, contact us so that we can work through the complexities of your case to see you to a successful conclusion. 

Denethris Barnes

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