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February 27, 2024 Uniform Law Commission

Creating and Enacting Uniform Family Laws

By: Sam Schoonmaker

Responsible attorneys recognized in 1892 that society would greatly benefit from a nonpartisan organization that would champion new laws designed to reduce conflicts of laws and jurisdictional inconsistency.  They created what is now known as the Uniform Law Commission (“ULC”), which wrote and helped to enact uniform and model acts in fields such as commercial law (e.g. the Uniform Commercial Code), real property law, probate and estates law, health law, family law, and other legal fields.  For example, all fifty states adopted the ULC’s Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (“UIFSA”), and forty-nine states adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

In 1999, the ULC, the ABA Family Law Section, and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers joined to create a brainstorming group called the “Joint Editorial Board for Uniform Family Laws.”  Its membership later expanded to include the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.  “JEBUFL” meetings now typically involve approximately twelve people, including a representative from the State Department, the Association of American Law Schools, and various experts and observers who can help analyze matters of interest to the JEBUFL.  

The JEBUFL has six stated purposes: (1) promote education about uniform family law acts to state legislatures and to the public at large; (2) facilitate communication between member organizations; (3) consider legislative suggestions from state legislatures and the Bar; (4) review and analyze court decisions on uniform family law acts; (5) recommend to the ULC amendments to uniform acts, or possible new uniform acts; and (6) monitor trends and developments in family law.   

Uniform state laws bring clarity and stability to the legal practice.  Imagine family law without the UCCJEA, where parents would snatch children and drive them across state lines to initiate custody cases, and multiple forums might seek to exercise jurisdiction over the same children simultaneously.  Imagine child support without the ability to enforce orders across state lines, or if multiple states could issue and modify competing support orders.  

Future articles will discuss uniform and model acts in the family law field, ongoing ULC drafting projects, and information on how you can get involved in the enactment process, such as efforts to enact the Family Law Arbitration Act. 

Samuel Schoonmaker and Meslissa A. Kucinski

Uniform Law Commission

 Melissa A. Kucinski practices in Washington, D.C.
Samuel V. Schoonmaker practices in Westport, Connecticut. 

 

For almost a decade, Melissa and Sam have served as the two ABA representatives to the JEBUFL.

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