During the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents left New York state with their children and have not returned. While parents relocated with their children, we questioned whether New York courts would maintain jurisdiction to compel a parent to return a child after having resided outside the state for over six months.

The answer requires both an analysis of Domestic Relations Law Article 5-A, known as the Uniform Child Custody and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and the facts of the case. Under the UCCJEA, (enacted in every state except Massachusetts), jurisdiction is based upon a child’s “home state,” which is of paramount importance. Domestic Relations Law (DRL) §75-a(7) defines a child’s “home state” as: “the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before 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 lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned. A period of temporary absence of any of the mentioned persons is part of the period.”