Child custody refers to the maintenance, care and control of the child which a court decides on after the parent’s divorce or separation. There are different types of child custody that a court can grant. Generally there are four types of child custody: physical, legal, joint and sole custody. There is also a distinction between married couples and unmarried couples for child custody issues. In most cases child custody is determined by the child’s best interests standard.
Child visitation laws govern the rights of non-custodial parents to spend time with their child. These cases are generally handled by state courts along with other issues such as divorce, separation, alimony, and child support and custody. Visitation rights permit the parent with whom the child does not live to take physical custody of the child for specific, regularly-scheduled periods of time.
In some cases, the parents may not come to an agreement regarding a visitation schedule. If this occurs, the court will step in and decide the matter. Once a schedule has been determined, if a parent is still in some disagreement they may apply to modify it. Conflict during visitation can also result when the custodial parent feels like the child is not being properly cared for during visits, also when the non-custodial parent keeps the child longer than allowed, or even when a grandparent seeks visitation over the objection of the parents.
Visitation is an area of law known to be mentally and physically draining, especially for the child. If there is hostility among the parents due to their relationship, it can become challenging for the court to determine a visitation schedule. Therefore, it’s crucial the court steps in to resolve the matter to ensure the best interests of the child, who suffers the most unfortunately.
What is Interstate Child Custody and Visitation?
In some cases, the parents may not live in the same state as the child, therefore the court can set up an interstate custody schedule to make sure they are able to meet. Generally, the child and the parent may have resided together in the same state, due to personal or professional reasons a parent had to move. Determining the interstate child custody can be difficult and seeking out an experienced lawyer in the area will assist in figuring out the complexities.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is accepted by most states. Under the UCCJEA, the most crucial factor in determining which state has jurisdiction over the matter is where the child lives. Jurisdiction will be determined by which state is considered the child’s home state, or where the child has resided for the six months prior to the filing of the action.
Any parent trying to obtain custody must also reside in the state in which the custody action is filed for at least six months before filing the action. If the child has not been living in any one state for the six months before the filing of a custody action, the court will evaluate whether the child and one of the parents have a strong connection to one state to determine the jurisdiction.
A finding of a significant connection requires more than just a determination that the parent or child is currently living in that state. If the child does not have a significant connection to any state, then any state in which the child has a connection can be found to have jurisdiction.
What Should I Know When Traveling to Another State?
Generally, a court will not permit a parent to relocate a child in a manner that will impact the other parent’s right to custody, unless it is determined to be in the best interest of the child.
However, In some cases, such as where one parent wants to move out of state due to better educational or medical resources for a child, the court may grant the right to relocation. But if a parent wants to move only due to personal or professional reasons, the court may be hesitant and find it is not in the best interest of the child which leads to ultimately denying the relocation.
What Issues can Arise from Moving out of State?
The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (or the UCCJEA) has been adopted by all states and the District of Columbia. Once a state exercises jurisdiction and decides the issues of child custody by entering custody order, that order is considered to be given full faith and credit by every other state. Full faith and credit means that the Courts in every state will abide by and recognize that child custody order.
Under this UCCJEA, once a Court has made an initial custody determination, meaning the Court has decided who has custody, visitation schedules, child support, etc. – usually that Court will obtain the right to hold a hearing to modify custody, visitation, and/or child support.
How does the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act Relate?
The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) is a federal law enacted to resolve the jurisdictional issues that may arise in child custody cases. It’s purpose is to create harmony among the states and deter interstate conflicts regarding child custody issues. Specifically, it mandates what the court should follow when dealing with the child custody case.
First, the court must follow in accordance with PKPA when deciding whether to enforce a custody determination made by a court in another state or tribe. Secondly, if the court is deciding whether to exercise jurisdiction even if there is a custody proceeding already pending in another jurisdiction.
Generally, there are four criteria in which courts can exercise jurisdiction:
- Home state – usually the state where the child lived with parent or guardian at least 6 months immediately before the custody action was filed;
- Significant connection – exercise this only if there is no home state;
- Emergency – if child is present in the state but has been abandoned or subject to abuse and;
- More appropriate forum – exists if none of the above are present.
Typically, PKPA gives the child’s home state preferred jurisdiction and restricts a court from exercising jurisdiction if a valid custody proceeding already is pending in another state. It is important to familiarize yourself with the regulations if dealing with any interstate child custody issues however, seeking out an experienced family lawyer can assist in understanding its nuances.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Issues with Interstate Child Custody and Visitation?
There are both federal and state custody laws to ensure uniformity among child custody and visitation orders. This helps to resolve interstate child custody and visitation issues among the parents. However, interpretation of the laws and regulations require an experienced local family law lawyer specifically a child custody lawyer.
There are many complexities involved in determining jurisdiction and how to enforce the orders. Courts are needed to balance out the best interests standard for the child and prevent parents from acting unfairly due to personal issues with each other. A qualified lawyer can help ensure that the interests of the child are properly represented, and that the outcome is as favorable as possible for the child.