A bit more complicated than the common intrastate dispute, the interstate child custody involves issues with the custodial law, constitutional law, and lawsuit recognition by other state courts.
Every child custody issue has the possibilities of becoming intensely emotional and intricate both for the children and parents. Often, parenting time and custody is the most worrying issue between unmarried parents and during a divorce.
Parents who reside in different states add an entirely new layer of intricacy to the issue. This establishes further agitation, confusion, and extensive litigation. Hence, working with a qualified attorney is a must if you are dealing with interstate child custody issues.
The Interstate Custody and Full Faith and Credit Clause Arrangements
Under the Constitution of the United States, the Full Faith and Credit Clause requires judges to enforce valid declarations and judgments the courts issued in different states. Depending on the situations involved, enforcement petition can be filed in the petitioner’s state or in the state where his or her former spouse resides. If you and your partner no longer live in one state, an experienced custody lawyer could be of utmost assistance to help enforce your orders.
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement or UCCJEA was initially decreed in 1986 and replaced the UCCJA in 1997. It is a law that governs custody disputes involving parents who live in different states. It has been adopted by all 50 states and is designed to improve fairness in child custody disputes across the lines of various states.
Under this law, a state court can generally make a decision with regard to child custody arrangement if:
- The state that makes the decision is the “home state” of the child
Home state is defined as the state where a child resided with a parent for at least 6 months before the legal proceeding was brought. It may also be defined as the state where a child (less than 6 months old) lived from birth with a parent.
- The child is in the state for safety reasons
This essentially means the child is within the state after being removed from another state whether for fear of abandonment, neglect, or abuse if sent back to the other state.
- The child is able to establish significant relationship with other people in the state
This relationship may include relationships with grandparents, extended family, teachers, neighbors, or others. There must also be significant evidence in the state that concerns the protection, care, and personal connections of the child.
- No state can meet one of the three tests above
This means no state can meet any of the three tests mentioned above, or a state can meet at least one test but has declined to proclaim jurisdiction over the subject.
If the child is currently residing in the state, but the state court is not able to meet any of the above tests, a child custody judgment cannot be issued by the court, as per the terms of UCCJA. Moreover, the custody of a parent is more likely to be denied if he or she has retained or removed the child to another state to make that state the home state of that child.
If more than one state can meet any of the above requirements all at once, UCCJA indicates that only one state can issue a child custody judgment.
In general, the above requirements are applied in regard to custody orders. On the other side, the UCCJEA also offers an exception for an urgent order. The UCCJEA particularly enables a state which would otherwise lack jurisdiction to enter a custody order when the child’s immediate welfare is at risk. This is specifically important in cases of domestic violence.
There are other laws applicable to interstate child custody cases in addition to UCCJEA. These include Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) and Prevention of Parental Kidnapping Act (PPKA). These federal laws are highly beneficial in deciding multi-state issues byways of promoting cooperation and uniformity between courts in various states.
Common Issues Prompting Interstate Child Custody Cases
Interstate issues can be due to a handful of different circumstances. Issues frequently take place when a custodial parent relocates or moves out of the state. A non-custodial parent who moves out of the state can also be an underlying issue.
Other issues include modifying visitation and parenting plans in one state to another as well as registering and enforcing visitation and custody orders from another state.
As you see, the process for filing interstate child custody is complex and can be worse if you file the wrong state. This is why hiring a custody attorney with extensive experience in the field is essential so future costly mistakes can be avoided in the long run.