The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) governs a state’s subject matter jurisdiction to hear child custody cases, including abuse, neglect, dependency (A/N/D), and termination of parent rights (TPR). See G.S. 50A-102(4); 50A-106. Without following the jurisdictional requirements of the UCCJEA, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Any orders entered when a court lacks subject matter jurisdiction are void ab initio. In re T.R.P., 360 N.C. 588 (2006). I receive numerous inquiries about the UCCJEA in A/N/D cases. A common question involves North Carolina’s use of temporary emergency jurisdiction and whether it ever becomes initial custody jurisdiction when North Carolina becomes the juvenile’s “home state” after the A/N/D petition has been filed in district court. Earlier this month, the court of appeals answered this question when it published In re N.B., ___ N.C. App. ___ (July 5, 2023). This blog serves as a follow up to my previous blog post about temporary emergency jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. Continue Reading
The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a set of uniform laws adopted by every state but Massachusetts*. One key purpose of the UCCJEA is to “provide a uniform set of jurisdictional rules and guidelines for the national enforcement of child custody orders.” In re J.W.S., 194 N.C. App. 439, 446 (2008) (emphasis added); see GS 50A-101 Official Comment. The UCCJEA defines when a court has subject matter jurisdiction of a child custody proceeding, which includes abuse, neglect, and dependency actions (A/N/D). See GS 50A-102(4). In North Carolina, the UCCJEA is found at GS Chapter 50A. Under the UCCJEA, there are different types of jurisdiction: initial (the first custody order concerning a child), modification (when there is a previously issued order), and temporary emergency jurisdiction. GS 50A-201 through -204. The focus of this post is temporary emergency jurisdiction. Continue Reading
Within North Carolina, the appropriate location of a district court where an abuse neglect or dependency (A/N/D) action is filed is a matter of venue. GS 7B-400. And the appropriate location of the district court where a termination of parental rights (TPR) action is filed is a matter of jurisdiction. GS 7B-1101. Why are they different? Because the statutes governing A/N/D and TPR proceedings have different requirements and impose different limitations on the parties and the court.
The General Assembly has the power to “fix and circumscribe the jurisdiction of the courts,” which can require certain procedures. In re T.R.P., 360 N.C. 588, 590 (2006). A/N/D and TPR cases are statutory in nature and set forth specific requirements that must be followed. Id. In an A/N/D or TPR action, the first place to look is the Juvenile Code (GS Chapter 7B) because it establishes both the procedures and substantive law for these types of juvenile proceedings. See GS 7B-100; -1100. Continue Reading