When parents are no longer together, each parent can seek physical custody of the child by court order or by entering into an agreement with the other parent. The non-custodial parent can also petition for visitation rights with the child, which the court will allow if it is in the best interest of the child.
Disputes can arise when parents no longer live in the same state and have a child custody and visitation order in place. In this scenario, the court order may be subject to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which has been adopted by the states in some form.
The UCCJE covers issues relating to enforcement of child custody orders to allow uniformity and clarity for parents who are unsure how custody laws are applied in other states. In general, the following will be considered in deciding in which state the child custody jurisdiction and enforcement issues will be determined:
- The child’s home state for the past six consecutive months;
- Any significant connections between the state and the child or parent;
- Whether the child is in the state for safety reasons; and
- Whether there are no states that can satisfy the above criteria.
Essentially, the court that issued the child custody and visitation court order will continue to have jurisdiction over issues arising from the court order until the court determines that it no longer has jurisdiction.
The court will make this determination when neither the child nor the parent have significant connection with the state or there is no evidence in the state about the child’s care. They will also make similar determinations if the court finds that neither the child nor the parents reside in the state that issued the child custody and visitation order.
Even if the custodial parent is not seeking to move to another state, issues of jurisdiction and enforcement may arise when a parent travels with the child to another state. Even though the travel may be temporary, the court order may address these types of scenarios and it is important that each parent adhere to the court order.
It may be a good idea to call the other parent to inform them of travel plans, which may be all that is necessary to satisfy a custody agreement or order if such notice is required. You may have to file a petition for modification for material variation from the existing court order.
Temporary travel out-of-state is generally amicably handled. However, when one parent decides to move out of state, the question becomes more complex. As stated above, the new state’s adoption of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act may dictate whether the laws of the home state applies or the new state.
For example, you may be required to register the court order in the new state. Also, the existing custody order may require that the court in the home state that presided over the custody issue be informed.
In addition, criminal charges of child kidnapping may arise because the parent moved the child to a new state without following the proper procedures about notice. This could lead to the custodial parent losing custody of the child. If you are considering moving out of state and are uncertain of what to do, you may benefit from working with a family attorney in your state.
Over the years, the UCCJEA has been revised to be consistent with the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) for determining jurisdictional issues. In conjunction with the UCCJEA, the PKPA helps to ensure the best interests of the child continue to be met as outlined in a custody and visitation order by preventing parental abduction.
Previously, parents could simply ignore court orders and take the child to a new state. The PKPA essentially mandates that all states adhere to the Full Faith and Credit Clause to ensure enforcement of the court order from the home state.
The new state will ensure the enforcement of the court order so long as the home state continues to have jurisdiction or does not decline to continuing exercising jurisdiction. The UCCJEA also works in concert with the PKPA to help courts determine which court has jurisdiction to make determinations in international custody cases.
Child custody can involve incredibly complex issues and are often made more difficult because the parties involved cannot amicably resolve these issues. If there is a child custody and visitation order in place and you are looking to move to another state, consider consulting with a child custody lawyer to assist you in protecting your rights.