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Missouri Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (MoUCCJEA)

The law that details under what circumstances Missouri courts have jurisdiction to make custody and visitation orders is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act or MoUCCJEA. If the requirements of this law are not met, then a Missouri court cannot enter a parenting plan for the children. Even if jurisdiction is proper for, say, dissolution of marriage or a paternity case, the court can dissolve the marriage or declare a father, but cannot make any orders pertaining to the children.

Selected statues from the MoUCCJEA are set forth below. If you have questions about how the law applies in your case, please contact a qualified Missouri child custody attorney.

Initial Child Custody Jurisdiction

452.740. 1. Except as otherwise provided in section 452.755, a court of this state has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination only if:

  1. This state is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding, or was the home state of the child within six months prior to the commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from this state but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in this state;
  2. A court of another state does not have jurisdiction under subdivision (1) of this subsection, or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this state is the more appropriate forum under section 452.770 or 452.775, and:
    1. The child and the child's parents, or the child and at least one parent or person acting as a parent have a significant connection with this state other than mere physical presence; and
    2. Substantial evidence is available in this state concerning the child's care, protection, training and personal relationships;
  3. All courts having jurisdiction under subdivisions (1) and (2) of this subsection have declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that a court of this state is the more appropriate forum to determine the custody of the child under section 452.770 or 452.775; or
  4. No state would have jurisdiction under subdivision (1), (2) or (3) of this subsection.

2. Subsection 1 of this section is the exclusive jurisdictional basis for making a child custody determination by a court of this state.

3. Physical presence of, or personal jurisdiction over, a party or a child is not necessary or sufficient to make a child custody determination.

“Home state" means the state in which a child has lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately prior to the commencement of a child custody proceeding. In the case of a child less than six months of age, the term means the state in which the child has lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned. A period of temporary absence of any of the mentioned persons is part of such period.

Exclusive, Continuing Jurisdiction

452.745. 1. Except as otherwise provided in section 452.755, a court of this state that has made a child custody determination consistent with section 452.740 or 452.750 has exclusive continuing jurisdiction over the determination until:

  1. A court of this state determines that neither the child, the child and one parent, nor the child and a person acting as a parent have a significant connection with this state, and that substantial evidence is no longer available in this state concerning the child's care, protection, training and personal relationships; or
  2. A court of this state or a court of another state determines that neither the child, nor a parent, nor any person acting as a parent presently resides in this state.

2. A court of this state that has exclusive continuing jurisdiction under this section may decline to exercise its jurisdiction if the court determines that it is an inconvenient forum under section 452.770.

3. A court of this state that has made a child custody determination and does not have exclusive continuing jurisdiction under this section may modify that determination only if it has jurisdiction to make an initial determination under section 452.740.

Jurisdiction to Modify Determination

452.750. Except as otherwise provided in section 452.755, a court of this state shall not modify a child custody determination made by a court of another state unless a court of this state has jurisdiction to make an initial determination under subdivision (1) or (2) of subsection 1 of section 452.740 and:

  1. The court of the other state determines it no longer has exclusive continuing jurisdiction under section 452.745 or that a court of this state would be a more convenient forum under section 452.770; or
  2. A court of this state or a court of the other state determines that neither the child, nor a parent, nor any person acting as a parent presently resides in the other state.

Temporary Emergency Jurisdiction

452.755. 1. A court of this state has temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child is present in this state and the child has been abandoned, or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child, or a sibling or parent of the child, is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.

2. If there is no previous child custody determination that is entitled to be enforced under sections 452.700 to 452.930, and if no child custody proceeding has been commenced in a court of a state having jurisdiction under sections 452.740 to 452.750, a child custody determination made under this section remains in effect until an order is obtained from a court of a state having jurisdiction under sections 452.740 to 452.750. If a child custody proceeding has not been or is not commenced in a court of a state having jurisdiction under sections 452.740 to 452.750, a child custody determination made under this section becomes a final determination if:

  1. It so provides; and
  2. This state becomes the home state of the child.

3. If there is a previous child custody determination that is entitled to be enforced under sections 452.700 to 452.930, or a child custody proceeding has been commenced in a court of a state having jurisdiction under sections 452.740 to 452.750, any order issued by a court of this state under this section shall specify in the order a period of time which the court considers adequate to allow the person seeking an order to obtain an order from the state having jurisdiction under sections 452.740 to 452.750. The order issued in this state remains in effect until an order is obtained from the other state within the period specified or the period expires.

4. A court of this state that has been asked to make a child custody determination under this section, upon being informed that a child custody proceeding has been commenced, or a child custody determination has been made, by a court of a state having jurisdiction under sections 452.740 to 452.750, shall immediately communicate with the other court. A court of this state that is exercising jurisdiction under sections 452.740 to 452.750, upon being informed that a child custody proceeding has been commenced, or a child custody determination has been made by a court of another state under a statute similar to this section shall immediately communicate with the court of that state. The purpose of such communication is to resolve the emergency, protect the safety of the parties and the child, and determine a period for the duration of the temporary order.

Inconvenient Forum

452.770. 1. A court of this state that has jurisdiction under sections 452.700 to 452.930 to make a child custody determination may decline to exercise its jurisdiction at any time if the court determines that it is an inconvenient forum under the circumstances and that a court of another state is a more appropriate forum. The issue of inconvenient forum may be raised upon the court's own motion, at the request of another court or upon motion of a party.

2. Before determining whether the court is an inconvenient forum, a court of this state shall consider whether it is appropriate that a court of another state exercise jurisdiction. For this purpose, the court shall allow the parties to submit information and shall consider all relevant factors, including:

  1. Whether domestic violence has occurred and is likely to continue in the future and which state could best protect the parties and the child;
  2. The length of time the child has resided outside this state;
  3. The distance between the court in this state and the court in the state that would assume jurisdiction;
  4. The relative financial circumstances of the parties;
  5. Any agreement of the parties as to which state should assume jurisdiction;
  6. The nature and location of the evidence required to resolve the pending litigation, including the testimony of the child;
  7. The ability of the court of each state to decide the issue expeditiously and the procedures necessary to present the evidence; and
  8. The familiarity of the court of each state with the facts and issues of the pending litigation.

3. If a court of this state determines that it is an inconvenient forum and that a court of another state is a more appropriate forum, the court shall stay the proceedings on the condition that a child custody proceeding be promptly commenced in another designated state and may impose any other condition the court considers just and proper.

4. A court of this state may decline to exercise its jurisdiction under sections 452.700 to 452.930 if a child custody determination is incidental to an action for divorce or another proceeding while still retaining jurisdiction over the divorce or other proceeding.

Jurisdiction Declined by Reason of Conduct

452.775. 1. Except as otherwise provided in section 452.755, if a court of this state has jurisdiction under sections 452.700 to 452.930 because a person invoking the jurisdiction has engaged in unjustifiable conduct, the court shall decline to exercise its jurisdiction unless:

  1. The parents and all persons acting as parents have acquiesced in the exercise of jurisdiction;
  2. A court of the state otherwise having jurisdiction under sections 452.740 to 452.750 determines that this state is a more appropriate forum under section 452.770; or
  3. No other state would have jurisdiction under sections 452.740 to 452.750.

2. If a court of this state declines to exercise its jurisdiction under subsection 1 of this section, the court may fashion an appropriate remedy to ensure the safety of the child and prevent a repetition of the wrongful conduct, including staying the proceeding until a child custody proceeding is commenced in a court having jurisdiction under sections 452.740 to 452.750.

3. If a court dismisses a petition or stays a proceeding because it declines to exercise its jurisdiction under subsection 1 of this section, the court shall charge the party invoking the jurisdiction of the court with necessary and reasonable expenses including costs, communication expenses, attorney's fees, investigative fees, expenses for witnesses, travel expenses and child care during the course of the proceedings, unless the party from whom fees are sought establishes that the award would be clearly inappropriate. The court may not assess fees, costs or expenses against this state except as otherwise provided by law other than sections 452.700 to 452.930.

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Mark A. Wortman

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Kansas City family law attorney Mark A. Wortman handles only divorce and family law matters, and practices only in the State of Missouri. Due to this specialty, Mark has handled thousands of Missouri divorce and family cases and has practiced extensi… Read More