This case raises two questions concerning application of the recently enacted Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), set forth at article 5-A of the Domestic Relations Law: (1) whether (as the father urges) title 3 of that act requires this court to enforce a custody order issued by a court in the Dominican Republic, or (2) whether (as the mother and law guardian contend) this court may assume jurisdiction of the parents’ custody dispute and modify or replace the Dominican court’s order. After consultation with the original judge, consideration of the parties’ residence status, and in light of allegations of an extensive history of domestic violence that were not presented to the Dominican court before its default order of custody was entered, this court assumes jurisdiction and sets the matter for trial.
Determination whether this controversy should remain with this court or be returned to the originating court in the Dominican Republic is governed by the recently enacted Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, effective April 28, 2002 and replacing the former “Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Act” (UCCJA). Set forth at article 5-A of the Domestic Relations Law, this statutory scheme is designed to eliminate jurisdictional competition between courts in matters of child custody. Jurisdictional priority, under the UCCJEA, is always conferred to a child’s “home state.”
The legislative history of the UCCJEA establishes that domestic violence was very much on the minds of the drafters of the statute. While earlier laws had often presumed that the party fleeing the jurisdiction with children was the wrongdoer, experience showed that it was often a victim of domestic violence who sought protection in another jurisdiction. One important purpose of the UCCJEA was to bring that area of law into conformity with the Parental Kidnaping Prevention Act (28 USC Â§ 1738A) and the “full faith and credit” requirements of the Violence Against Women Act. Domestic violence injury is also a factor to be considered when determining whether to retain jurisdiction in the United States in an international custody case under the International Parental Kidnaping Act, and can support refusal to repatriate a child.