To date, Massachusetts has not enacted a version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”). In Massachusetts, the predecessor to the UCCJEA, the Massachusetts’s variant of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (“MCCJA”) still governs. If you are a person who has resided in Massachusetts with your minor child it is important that you know whether Massachusetts has jurisdiction over your child for purposes of deciding issues of child custody.
The MCCJA supplies Massachusetts with jurisdiction over children for purposes of deciding issues of child custody in three ways. First, Massachusetts will assert jurisdiction over a child if Massachusetts is found to be the child’s home state at the commencement of the custody proceeding. See, M.G.L. c. 209B, § 2(a)(i). Under M.G.L. c. 209B, § 1 a child’s home state is the place where the child has resided for six consecutive months regardless of the existence of a permanent home elsewhere. If Massachusetts does not have home state jurisdiction over a child, the state can still assert jurisdiction over the child if Massachusetts was the child’s home for six months before the commencement of the proceeding and the child is currently absent from Massachusetts because of her removal by a person claiming her custody. M.G.L. c. 209B, § 2(a)(ii). To assert jurisdiction on this ground, a parent or person acting as a parent must remain in Massachusetts after the child’s removal. Id. Finally, if Massachusetts does not have jurisdiction under M.G.L. c. 209B, § 2(a)(i) or § 2(a)(ii), it can still assert jurisdiction over a child if it would be in the best interests of the child for Massachusetts’ Courts to have jurisdiction to decide issues of child custody and no other state has proper jurisdiction. M.G.L. c. 209B, § 4(i).
In sum, if you are a parent who has spent time with a child in Massachusetts, it is important to know whether you have conferred jurisdiction upon the Massachusetts courts to decide issues relating to your child’s custody. If you are a non-resident who has learned that Massachusetts has jurisdiction over your child for purposes of deciding her custody, you should contact an experienced Massachusetts child custody attorney immediately.