Interstate Child Custody Disputes

The Rocky Mountain Family Lawyers are Colorado Interstate Child Custody dispute and UCCJEA experts.  Call us now to discuss your legal options and rights concerning interstate child custody disputes for cases in Denver, Colorado and surrounding cities (303) 502-9600.

A Brief History of Custody

 In today’s mobile society, it is very common for divorced or separated parents to live in different states.   Jurisdictional questions often arise.   The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA)—passed in 1969 and adopted by all 50 states by 1981—attempted to resolve child custody jurisdictional disputes by ensuring that only one state had jurisdiction to create or modify a child custody order.   In 1997, due to conflicts the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), the UCCJA was amended and became the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA” or the “Act”).   Colorado and all other states, except Massachusetts, have now adopted the UCCJEA (further proof that you can’t tell anyone from Massachusetts anything).

Basics of The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

 Purpose and Scope of Coverage

The purposes of the UCCJEA are (1) to avoid jurisdictional conflict between States in matters of child custody, (2) to promote cooperation between the States and to render custody orders by that State which can best decide the case in the interest of the child, (3) to discourage the use of the interstate system for continuing controversies over child custody, (4) to deter abductions of children, (5) to avoid relitigation of custody decisions of one State in another State, and (6) to facilitate the enforcement of custody decrees of other States.


The UCCJEA applies to virtually all custody-related cases except those involving adoptions and emergency medical treatment for a child.  The Act applies internationally as well, unless the laws of a foreign country violate a fundamental principle of human rights.

Jurisdictional issues related to custody disputes are given high-priority on the court’s calendar.   Decisions rendered by a Colorado court under the Act are binding on all persons who are subject to the Court’s jurisdiction as long as formal notice is given in the manner required under Colorado law or under the law of the State (or country) of the person notified.   An order issued under the Act and is “conclusive as to all decided issues of law and fact” unless the order is subsequently modified.

Communication and Cooperation Between Courts

The UCCJEA is unique in that it expressly authorizes courts to communicate directly with each other to help resolve jurisdictional and evidentiary disputes, with or without notice to the parties.  Courts are also authorized to hold evidentiary hearings or to take action to preserve evidence on behalf of other courts to help resolve any jurisdiction issues.

The Rocky Mountain Family Lawyers have served as consultants to attorneys in Europe and Canada about the scope and application of the UCCJEA.  Call us to discuss your interstate custody dispute.  303-502-9600.


Original Jurisdiction to Enter Initial Child Custody Orders: Priority of the “Home State”

Home State Analysis has Priority

Under the UCCJEA, the “home state” of the child has “original jurisdiction,” that is, jurisdiction to make the initial child custody determination.  The home state is simply the State or country where the child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least 182 days (six months) immediately before the child-custody case was filed.  So, if the child was removed from a State or country less than six months ago, that State or country will still retain exclusive jurisdiction to hear the case as long as one party still lives in that jurisdiction.  If the child is less than six months of age, the “home state” is the state in which the child lived from birth.

More Appropriate Forum

The “home state” analysis is strongly preferred as a method to resolve interstate child custody jurisdictional issues.  However, a Colorado district court may also assume jurisdiction to enter the initial child custody determination if, under another State’s or a foreign country’s laws, (1) no other jurisdiction is the child’s “home state” or (2) the court in the child’s home state declines to exercise jurisdiction because it finds that Colorado is a more appropriate forum.  For these alternatives to apply, the foreign jurisdiction must have laws substantially similar to the UCCJEA.   Also, the parents must have a significant connection to Colorado (the “more appropriate forum”) other than mere physical presence, and substantial evidence must be available in Colorado concerning the child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships.

No Other Court has Jurisdiction

As a fallback measure, a Colorado court may exercise jurisdiction to enter an initial child custody decision if no other state has jurisdiction according to its laws, which much be in substantial conformity to the above “home state” and “more appropriate forum” rules.

Emergency Jurisdiction

A Colorado District Court also has ongoing jurisdiction to enter temporary emergency orders necessary to protect a child.

Continuing and Exclusive Jurisdiction to Modify Existing Child Custody Orders

If Colorado or another State assumes jurisdiction over a child custody dispute, it will retain exclusive and continuing jurisdiction until it determines that the child or its parents no longer have a significant connection with Colorado and that substantial evidence concerning the child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships is no longer in Colorado.

A Colorado (or foreign) court with exclusive and continuing jurisdiction will also lose that jurisdiction if it, or another court, determines that the child and both of the child’s parents no longer reside in Colorado (or the foreign State or country).   Thereafter, except in emergencies, the court that lost exclusive and continuing jurisdiction may only modify existing child custody orders if it obtains “original jurisdiction” as set forth above.

Colorado Interstate Child Custody Jurisdiction Lawyers

The Rocky Mountain Family Lawyers are Colorado interstate child custody dispute and UCCJEA experts.  Call us now to discuss your legal options and rights concerning interstate child custody or UCCJEA disputes for cases in Denver, Colorado and surrounding cities (303) 502-9600.


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