The issue of child custody is one of the most contentious, emotionally heated, and passionately litigated areas of family law. Child custody cases only become more complicated and controversial when the child's parents reside in different states. As state laws can vary, jurisdiction must be established before any important decisions can be made. Needless to say, interstate child custody issues can be confusing. Fortunately, our firm's experienced child custody lawyer can provide crucial legal guidance and representation for parents navigating complex interstate child custody issues.
The Law Office of Silverman, Mack & Associates is a full-service Gainesville law firm specializing in family law. Contact us today to schedule a free case consultation with one of our skilled Gainesville attorneys!
Interstate Child Custody Laws
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) sets the legal parameters of interstate child custody cases. Drafted in 1997 and adopted by every U.S. state except for Massachusetts, the UCCJEA was created to promote children's best interests, prevent redundant litigation, deter unconscionable relocations, and provide uniform guidance to family courts. Under the guidelines of the UCCJEA, state courts can make determinations regarding child custody arrangements if the following applies.
- The state is determined to be the child's home state.
- The child has significant connections with others residing in the state (typically family members or guardians).
- The child is currently living in the state for their safety.
- No other state meets any of the above criteria.
Determining The Child's Home State
In an interstate child custody case, jurisdiction will be granted to the family court of the child's home state. Being granted jurisdiction allows a state's family court to make legal determinations and rulings regarding custody. Typically, a child's home state is determined to be any state the child has lived in for at least six months. Additionally, any parent seeking custody must also reside in the state the custody action is being filed for at least six months before filing the action. If the child hasn't lived in the state for six months, it may still be deemed the child's home state if the child has significant connections in the state. Usually, "significant connections" will be teachers, grandparents, or other guardians.
Exceptions To Home State Jurisdiction
Under special circumstances, a state other than the child's home state may exercise jurisdiction. The following are three main reasons why jurisdiction would be granted to a state other than a child's home state.
- Emergency — Jurisdiction may be exercised by a court outside of a child's home state if there is an immediate threat to the child's well-being. In emergencies, family courts will be able to issue temporary custody orders.
- Inconvenient Forum — Jurisdiction may be granted to a court outside of the child's home state if a parent can prove that the home state is an inconvenient forum. In determining whether the child's home state is an inconvenient forum, courts will consider each parties' location, each parties' financial circumstances, whether domestic violence has occurred, any prior agreements made by the parties regarding the jurisdiction, and so on.
- Unjust Filing — Finally, if a parent attempts to file an unjust custody action in a state court, that court may decline jurisdiction. For example, it may be deemed unjust if a parent moves the child to a different state without granting the other parent notice and attempts to file an action.
Parents who wish to move their children out of state and who already have a custody order must seek the court's permission to do so. Unless it is determined to be in the child's best interest, a court will not permit a parent to relocate a child in a way that would affect another parent's right to custody. In some cases, a court might grant the right to relocate, such as when one parent wishes to move out of state to provide better educational or medical resources for the child. However, if a parent wants to move purely for personal, punitive, or professional reasons, the court may rule that it is not in the child's best interest and deny the relocation.
How Our Child Custody Lawyers Can Help
Trying to navigate a complicated custody dispute, especially interstate custody issues, can be frustrating, confusing, and make parents feel hopeless. Fortunately, this isn't a battle you have to face alone. Our Gainesville lawyers are deeply committed to helping families navigate difficult situations by providing valuable legal advice and vigorous representation. Contact a child custody attorney with The Law Office of Silverman, Mack & Associates today to schedule a free case consultation!