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What is the UCCJEA in North Carolina Child Custody Cases?

Filing for child custody in North Carolina is dictated by numerous state and federal laws, one of which is the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Working with a Greensboro divorce lawyer ensures the custody process is completed correctly. However, if you are looking for general information so you can make an informed decision about representation, the information below will help you understand the UCCJEA and how it may affect your custody arrangement.

What is the UCCJEA?

The UCCJEA[1] is a uniform act intended to decrease the instances of parental kidnappings that occur across state lines[2]. The purpose of a uniform act like the UCCJEA is to provide consistency in legal and enforcement standards across states. The Act does not dictate custody statutes; it merely determines in which state jurisdiction in custody matters should exist.

Essentially, the UCCJEA lays out which courts have jurisdiction to decide on, enter, and amend custody orders. If you have moved into North Carolina with an existing custody order or moved out of the state with an order entered initially in North Carolina, the UCCJEA will likely impact any future custody cases involving your current order.

Waly v. Alkamary

The case of Waly v. Alkamary[3] provides a good example of how the UCCJEA affects custody orders. In this case, the parties originally filed in Cumberland County, North Carolina. The trial court awarded temporary physical custody to the mother. Both the mother and father relocated to different states following the entry of this temporary order, with the mother moving to New Jersey with the child and the father moving to Florida.

As the matter continued, a domestic violence protective order was entered in New Jersey, which prohibited the father from contacting the mother. Both parties filed motions in two separate states – the father filed in North Carolina and the mother in New Jersey. After several more filings by the father in North Carolina, the protective order issued in New Jersey was amended to reflect the visitation terms of the North Carolina order.

The North Carolina court ultimately ruled in a final hearing that the father would have primary physical custody and the mother would have visitation. In her appeal of this decision, the mom claimed that the trial court in North Carolina did not have jurisdiction and incorrectly used the New Jersey protective order against her.

The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision to enter a custody order awarding the father with primary physical custody. It determined that the Cumberland County court retained initial determination jurisdiction according to the UCCJEA. Initial determination grants a court the jurisdiction to modify child custody arrangements[4]. Had the mother filed the necessary motions in New Jersey, she may have been able to transfer jurisdiction from North Carolina, but she failed to complete the appropriate steps for this action.

While no results are guaranteed in any legal matter, having the assistance of an experienced child custody attorney improves your chances of reaching a favorable outcome in your case. You don’t have to navigate the complexities of the North Carolina legal system alone. Contact the Greensboro divorce lawyers at Woodruff Family Law Group to schedule a consultation.


[1] Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

[2] U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.

[3] Waly v. Alkamary, 279 N.C. App. 73, 864 S.E.2d 763.

[4] Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.