The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act has some provisions to ensure uniformity and to encourage parties to participate in the child custody proceedings.
The first is that priority is to be given to cases which have been identified as UCCJEA cases.
If a question or existence or exercise of jurisdiction under the UCCJEA is raised in a child custody proceedings, the question upon request of a party must be given priority on the calendar and handled expeditiously.
Notice an opportunity to be heard the UCCJEA gives the court the authority to have all necessary parties before it so the court can make the correct decision.
A party where the court can use the UCCJEA to bring the child to the court is a useful device if one party has brought the child from another state without consent of the other party.
The UCCJEA requires notice and opportunity to be heard must be given to all persons entitled to notice under Texas law, just as in custody proceedings between residents of Texas.
Texas family code 152.205
The Texas family code 152.205 parents who parental rights have not been terminated and any person having physical custody of the child must receive notice.
There are requirements for giving notice of proceedings to persons outside of the state a court may order a party to a child custody proceeding who is in Texas or a person in the state who has physical custody of the child to appear before the court, with or without the child.
Under section 152.210 it also permits the court to give notice pursuant to section 152.108 to a party to a child custody proceeding who is outside of the state to appear before the court with or without the child.
That notice includes a statement informing the person that failure to appear may result in a decision adverse to the party.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement
Court may order a party to pay reasonable necessary travel expenses and other expenses of another party and of the child if the other party to the child custody proceeding is directed to appear under the section 152.210 or desires to appear personally before the court with or without the child.
The UCCJEA also has provisions to safeguard parties so they are encouraged to participate.
A court may enter any orders necessary to ensure the safety of the child and of any person ordered to appear under section 152.210.
The UCCJEA also protects parties participating in child custody proceedings, including modifications and enforcement actions, from being subject to personal jurisdiction in this state solely due to participating or being physically present in the state in order to tarp to participate in the proceeding.
That immunity is limited, not providing protection from personal jurisdiction on other issues, or from civil litigation based on the acts in this state unrelated to a child custody proceeding.
Taking testimony in another state is also a provision that is allowed under the UCCJEA
The court’s ability to get information is not limited to bringing parties before it to facilitate the gathering of information necessary to determine subject matter jurisdiction under section 152.111.
The ability for the court to take testimony in another state is permitted and allowed.
A court on its own motion may order that the testimony of a person be taken in another state and may prescribe the manner in which the terms upon that testimony is taken.
Courts may give permission for individuals in another state to be deposed or to testify by telephone, audio visual means, or other electronic means before a designated court or another location in that state.
A Texas court shall cooperate with courts of other states in designating an appropriate location for the deposition or testimony.
To further facilitate hearings, documentary evidence transmitted from another state to a Texas court by technological means that do not produce an original writing may not be excluded from evidence on an objection based on the means of transmission.
So as I give you the procedures then what you have is in the last two years is the zoom hearings because of the Covid pandemic.
So you have the courts transitioning from what were previously conferences to the zoom hearings which have been much more common and as participation has increased throughout the state of Texas on zoom hearings there is a movement going forward where the bar is trying to have hybrid hearings for the future.
And hybrid hearings would involve some form of in-person and some form of zoom hearing so telephonic hearings I would say are going to be a thing of the past under the UCCJEA.
And it’s more likely as we transition back to in-person court appearances that those in-person court appearances you would have allowed the ability to zoom in for some type of hearings, because the judges, the clerks, and the lawyers are over the last two years become very familiar with zoom hearings pretty much everyone has had more than several trials more than three or four hearings trials and docket calls with zoom and all the courts have zoom accounts.
So as a result I would expect in the future you will not have any telephonic hearings but you will have an ongoing ability to do zoom which I think saves your travel cost and also allows for good participation in your UCCJEA hearing.
Michael Busby is board certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and offices in Chinatown, and Independence Heights in Houston, Texas
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