Interstate Custody Battles: Who has Jurisdiction? - Bineham & Gillen

custodyInterstate Custody Battles: Who has Jurisdiction?

Co-parenting as a divorced couple is challenging enough while living in the same state. When parents of a child are trying to determine custody while residing in separate states, it becomes an even bigger challenge.

Interstate custody arrangements and battles can get overwhelming and frustrating for all parties involved. Luckily, decisions regarding custody are always made with the child’s best interests in mind, and there are statutes in place to help make these difficult decisions.

How does the UCCJEA affect Interstate Custody?

Every state, including the District of Columbia, with the exception of Massachusetts, has enacted and follow the standards of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

Under this act, where the child is currently living is the most important aspect in determining state jurisdiction or which state has the legal power to make decisions. A child’s home state refers to the state the child has resided in for the six months prior to filing the action and has priority over any other state.

Proving Residency

The parent filing for custody must prove residency for both themselves and their child in the state for that six months in order to gain jurisdiction priority.

If a parent moves states quickly after divorce and files for custody where they have only lived in for a short amount of time, the state will analyze whether or not the parent moved because of a strong connection to the state. In this situation, connections to a state must be more than a place of residency.

After investigation, if no significant connection between the child and the state is found, child custody jurisdiction will belong to any state in which a significant connection is present.

Priority and Jurisdiction

If both parents file for custody in different states, judges from both states will examine the evidence and work together to determine which state having priority and jurisdiction will be of best interest for the child.

The UCCJEA prevents two states from handling the same custody case separately at one time and prevents both parents from having custody in separate states for the sake of the child. Once a court has jurisdiction, it will retain jurisdiction until neither the child nor its parents reside in the state or the child and parents no longer have significant connections to the state.

In order for another state to gain jurisdiction, evidence must be found establishing a significant connection for the child or the parents in that state.

What if there is an Emergency?

In the event of an emergency, a state that is not the child’s home state may retain priority jurisdiction to protect the child. Ultimately, the UCCJEA determines child custody jurisdiction based on the best interest of the child and his or her wellbeing.

In certain circumstances that benefit the child, the court will allow interstate moving. However, interstate custody arrangements also respect both parental parties. This means one parent cannot move states without following procedures that will allow the court to decide if moving states will affect the other parent’s custody rights.

For more information regarding interstate custody arrangements, contact us at Bineham & Gillen. If you’re in need of a family lawyer, call us today to get your begin your custody case.

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