To date, Massachusetts has not enacted a version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”). In MA, the predecessor to the UCCJEA, Massachusetts’s variant of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (“MCCJA”) still governs. If you are a person who has resided in MA with your minor son or daughter 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 custody of your child in three ways. First, MA will assert jurisdiction over a child if MA is found to be the minor’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 minor’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 MA does not have home state jurisdiction over your son or daughter, the state can still assert jurisdiction over the child if MA was the child’s home for six months before the commencement of the proceeding and the child is currently absent from MA 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 MA after the child’s removal. Id. Finally, if MA 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 MA, it is important to know whether you have conferred jurisdiction upon the MA 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.