Skip to main content

Are you a legal professional? Visit our professional site

Guided Legal Forms & Services: Sign In

Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Jurisdiction of Custody and Visitation Cases

Your ex moved out, but that was only the beginning. Now you have to figure out who will get custody of your children. If you and your ex can’t agree on a custody arrangement, you may have to go to court to figure it out. But which court handles your custody case? And what happens to you case if your ex didn’t just move out, but moved to another state?

Here's a quick introduction to the jurisdiction of custody and visitation cases.

Jurisdiction of Custody and Visitation: Parties Residing in the Same State

State custody laws provide the appropriate venue which can make custody and visitation determinations in a case where all of the parties reside in the same state. Where a divorce is pending, the appropriate venue for making custody or visitation decisions involving the grandparents and grandchildren is almost always the court hearing the divorce proceedings. Some states require visitation petitions to be filed along with another domestic relations suit and may also permit visitation requests after a domestic relations order has been rendered or as an original proceeding.

Divorce, child support, and child custody cases are normally handled by family courts. Generally these are organized into state family courts, with actual courthouses located in each county. Family court proceedings usually follow the same procedures as civil courts, with each side able to present evidence. However, family court cases are almost always decided by a judge, rather than a jury. While the custody forms you file with the court can be similar nationwide, each state has specific forms.

Jurisdiction of Custody and Visitation: Parties Residing in Different States

If a child's parents and/or grandparents live in different states, one of several laws will determine the appropriate court to hear a custody or visitation case. If a valid custody or visitation decree has been entered in one state, the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act requires that another state must enforce the decree and must not modify it. Another state may modify the decree only if the original state no longer has jurisdiction over the case or has declined jurisdiction to modify the custody or visitation decree. Congress amended this statute in 1998 to cover grandparents as well as parents.

If no state has made a valid custody determination, the provisions of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, as adopted by each state, will apply. A court in a particular state has power to hear a custody case if that state is the child's "home state" or has been the home state of the child within six months of the date the legal action was brought and at least one parent continues to reside in the state. Other situations include those in which a state with jurisdiction over a custody case declines jurisdiction or no other state may assert jurisdiction over the child.

Confused About Establishing the Jurisdiction of Your Custody and Visitation Case? Get an Attorney's Help

Figuring out child custody issues isn't easy especially if you and your ex are living in different states. In these cases you'll need to determine the jurisdiction of custody. Get help with this and other technical aspects of your custody case by speaking with a child custody attorney in your area.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified child custody attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options