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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 your 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 will govern the custody and visitation determinations when all parties reside in the same. When a divorce is pending, the appropriate venue for making custody or visitation decisions is a court hearing during the divorce proceedings. Some states require visitation petitions to be filed.

Divorce, child support, and child custody cases are normally handled by family courts. Generally, these are organized into state family courts, which are a division of the local court (district, circuit, superior, etc.). 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

The provisions of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), as adopted by each state (except MA) will apply. The UCCJEA helps determine which state has jurisdiction and who would have ongoing jurisdiction in the event the parents want to modify the custody arrangement or parenting time. The UCCJEA is highly technical and must be strictly followed.

A court in a particular state has the 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 and if that state wishes to maintain jurisdiction. 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 who is familiar with UCCJEA and how it works 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.

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Next Steps

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

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Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Custody & child visitation cases are emotional, and a lawyer can seek the best outcome
  • A lawyer can help protect your children's interests
  • Lawyers can seek to secure visitation rights

Get tailored advice and ask a lawyer questions. Many attorneys offer free consultations.


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