Interstate Child Custody

By Henry F. Lewis on September 26, 2021

artwork of broken familyWhen parents choose to divorce, settling matters of child custody can be complex and contentious. In many cases parents reside in the same state where a child custody hearing takes place. However, sometimes parents live in separate states, which makes matters especially complicated.

Parents who are attempting to reach an agreement regarding interstate child custody should work with a knowledgeable family law attorney, such as Michael A. Gardner. Michael Gardner understands the statutes that pertain to interstate child custody. He assists his Oakland, CA, clients in determining which state has jurisdiction over child custody matters, while working to protect their parental rights.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

If parents reside in two different states when a child is born, or if one parent moves to another state for personal or professional reasons, it is important to determine where child custody matters will be settled, and how custody agreements will be enforced. To make things uniform across the country, 49 states (all but Massachusetts) have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, or UCCJEA. Written in 1997, this bill sets parameters for interstate child custody matters, including how to determine which state has jurisdiction over the case.

Jurisdiction Over Child Custody

According to guidelines set by the UCCJEA, jurisdiction for child custody will be held by the child’s “home” state. In most cases, the court considers the child’s home state to be the one they have resided in for the six months prior to the filing of child custody. Any parent filing for child custody must also have resided in the state for at least the previous six months. 

If a child has not lived in any state for a period of six months, the court can determine the home state based on family connections. For instance, they may look at where the child’s parents have lived, or where the child (or the parent) has close ties and relationships.

Exceptions to “Home” State Jurisdiction

A child’s home state typically has jurisdiction over child custody matters, but there are some circumstances that are exceptions to the rule. A child’s home state may decline jurisdiction, and allow a court in another state to preside over the matter, under these circumstances:

  • The home state is an “inconvenient forum,” meaning that it is not convenient for one or both parents to settle custody matters within that state, either due to location complications or financial strains
  • It was an unjust filing (this often applies to situations where a parent moves a child without notifying the other parent in an attempt to define the child’s home state)
  • Emergency situations, i.e., the child has been moved to a different state for safety reasons

Can a Child Be Moved Out of State?

Our Oakland clients frequently have questions about moving a child out of state after a child custody agreement has been reached. If a child custody agreement is in place, a parent cannot move a child out of state without seeking approval from the court. Any filing must be made in the same state that initially handled the child custody agreement, since they retain jurisdiction until both parents have moved out of state. Generally, a court will not approve a move out of state if it affects the other parent’s right to custody, unless it can be shown that the move is in the best interest of the child.

Get in Touch

If you are trying to settle matters regarding interstate child custody, it is important to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side. To discuss your situation with family law attorney Michael A. Gardner, call our Oakland law firm at (510) 451-4822, or schedule a consultation online.

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The needs of your family are always at the forefront of our legal services. Whether through litigation or mediation, we believe that reaching a fair, efficient solution with minimal negative impact to your family is of the utmost importance. Henry F. Lewis

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Oakland Office

1939 Harrison St
Ste 210
Oakland, CA 94612

Open Today 9:00am - 5:00pm

More Info Directions (510) 451-4822