Family Law Is Always a State Law Matter
Video Transcribed: My name is Brian L. Jackson, and I’m an Oklahoma Father’s Rights attorney with Dads.Law, we protect fathers’ rights in Oklahoma. Today I want to talk to you about the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act. Specifically, what is necessary to establish jurisdiction in the state of Oklahoma? As a preliminary matter, for the state to be able to establish jurisdiction it would mean that another state could not have assumed jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act.
The reason for that is pursuant to the act, once a court has ruled on the issue of custody of any particular child or children and has done so with appropriate jurisdiction, then that court becomes the exclusive forum for hearing custody matters involving that child or children and less and until jurisdiction is transferred. Really the only exception to that rule is if you’re talking about a court assuming jurisdiction on an emergency basis.
Assuming that you don’t have that problem, what you have to do to establish jurisdiction, there are a couple of rules. The most obvious one is that you have to establish the child is a resident of the state of Oklahoma, which sounds simple enough, right? Well, there’s a specific rule as to what is considered residency. That is that the child has to have been living in the state for approximately six months prior to the commencement of the proceeding. Now, there are other grounds where the court might also establish jurisdiction and I’m going to talk about those in just a second here.
Those grounds are if a court of another state does not have jurisdiction under paragraph one of the subsection, which is where the six-month rule is, or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the grounds that this state is a more appropriate forum to hear the matter, the child and at least one parent or a person acting as a parent, have a significant connection with this state other than mere physical presence and substantial evidence is available in the state concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships.
So in other words, you’re talking about substantial ties to the state which is a similar rule to a lot of general long-arm statutes that deal with civil matters.
Essentially what it means is that the child can’t just be physically present in the state. There has to be some kind of a tie. Now that tie can be established by a period of time, that would be the six-month rule. Or based on the fact that they have substantial contacts with the state, such as they went to school here.
They have a lot of families here that they’ve had a close relationship with. Anything like that would establish that type of a tie. Their physician is here, that kind of thing. That’s what’s needed to initially establish jurisdiction.
Now, once jurisdiction is established in Oklahoma in a particular court, that court then has exclusive jurisdiction to hear matters involving that child, unless and until it’s transferred somewhere else. If someone should file a matter in another court attempting to affect custody or visitation with this child, that would be per se outside the court’s authority to do so.
This is what’s called a subject matter jurisdiction rule. Subject matter jurisdiction is interesting because basically what you’re talking about is the court’s ability to render an opinion on a particular subject. In other words, does the court have the authority to say the law is this on this topic?
Some other examples of away from child custody of where subject matter jurisdiction might become an issue, if you attempt to say, file a copyright claim in state court, state court can’t hear those. Copyright law is strictly reserved to federal court and federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction.
Family law is actually the converse of that. Family law is pretty much always a state law matter and states exercise exclusive jurisdiction. You can’t try a family case in federal court, not even under federal diversity jurisdiction. So that’s how that works.
In other words, once an Oklahoma court has established jurisdiction, that court is the only court where you can file a custody matter involving that child or those children going forward. You actually have to ask to do a change of venue to move it to another court.
And there is a procedure for that, which we’ll talk about in another video. But until that procedure is followed, only one court can hear matters involving that child or those children. Guys, if you have a question about a child custody matter and need help, my name is Brian L. Jackson and I’m an Oklahoma father’s rights attorney.