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Jurisdiction for Custody

Pennsylvania abides by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) in terms of determining where a custody case should be handled. The preferred method for establishing jurisdiction is based on the home state of the child. The homes state is defined as the state where the child had been living for at least six (6) months prior to the custody action or since birth if the child is less than six months old. If jurisdiction is not clear based on an analysis of the home state, the courts then look to see where there are significant connections and substantial evidence relevant to the custody action. Significant connections is more than just mere presence in any state.

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Once a court obtains jurisdiction under one of guidelines above, that court continues to have exclusive jurisdiction until it is established that another court has become more suitable for jurisdiction. Accordingly, any modifications of custody must go through the court that made the initial or prior determination. If all parties and the child have moved from the jurisdiction where the initial custody order was established, there is a good chance the jurisdiction for the custody matter should change as well to the new home state of the child. There is an exception to the rules on jurisdiction in the event of an emergency. If a child is in danger and there is a need for immediate action, the jurisdiction where the child is located at that time can enter a temporary emergency order. The UCCJEA also provides a procedure for registration and enforcement of custody orders across state lines.

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