The UCCJEA, the scaffold of our interstate child custody system, has two dueling new exceptions related to child gender dysphoria. What will be the impact on interstate child custody lawyers with the latest UCCJEA changes sweeping the country?
An Increasing Health Care Concern
Children in the U.S. can identify as a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth. The number of children identifying as gender nonconforming and transgender is growing.
Health technology company Komodo Health Inc., attempted to quantify the number of children seeking and receiving care by analyzing millions of health insurance claims. Between 2017 and 2021, the number of new diagnoses of children aged 6-17 with gender dysphoria increased by nearly 178 percent.
Of these cases, a smaller number of children with gender dysphoria are choosing medical interventions to express their identity. Appropriate treatment for children diagnosed with gender dysphoria is the subject of debate internationally, and not surprisingly, among different U.S. states.
Dysphoria in the UCCJEA
I have written and spoken on many issues related to the UCCJEA as a family law attorney. Next month I will be presenting an introduction to the UCCJEA for foreign lawyers at the IV Congreso Internacional de AIJUDEFA in Mexico.
The UCCJEA is a uniform act created to avoid jurisdictional competition and conflict with other courts in child custody matters. The UCCJEA also promotes cooperation with other courts and ensures that a custody decree is rendered in the state which is in a superior position to decide the best interest of the child. The UCCJEA helps to facilitate enforcement of custody decrees; and has the aspirational goal of promoting uniformity of the laws governing custody issues.
One of the ways the UCCJEA helped to avoid jurisdictional competition in child custody matters is by solving the historic problem of different courts issuing different orders covering the same child. Under the UCCJEA one state is a child’s home state, and the home state keeps exclusive jurisdiction to modify the custody arrangement unless, for example, the child is another state and there is an emergency.
Periodically, child custody disputes can become emergencies. The UCCJEA provides deliverance from such disputes by authorizing any state – even if it is not the home state of the child – to take temporary emergency jurisdiction to protect a child subject to, or threatened with, mistreatment or abuse.
California recently amended its version of the UCCJEA. California Governor Gavin Newsom – fresh from having visited Florida to poke fun of Gov. DeSantis – signed a bill expanding temporary emergency jurisdiction in California under the UCCJEA.
Effective this year, California courts are now authorized to assume temporary emergency jurisdiction of children in California, who are subjected to, or threatened with, mistreatment or abuse, “or because the child has been unable to obtain gender-affirming health care or gender-affirming mental health care.”
Florida recently amended its version of the UCCJEA. Gov. DeSantis – fresh from having visited California to poke fun of Gov. Newsom – signed a bill expanding temporary emergency jurisdiction in Florida under the UCCJEA.
Effective this year, Florida courts are now authorized to assume temporary emergency jurisdiction of children in Florida, who are subjected to, or threatened with, mistreatment or abuse, “or It is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child has been subjected to or is threatened with being subjected to sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures.”
The California Senate bill is here. The Florida Senate bill is here.