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Interstate "Full Faith and Credit" Custody Law

You jumped through all the right hoops following your divorce. You thought you had the whole custody thing figured out. But what happens to your child custody order if you move to a different state? Or if your ex moves to a new state? Will your custody order follow your kids' visit to Massachusetts if you live in the District of Columbia? You can usually relax, as custody orders are nearly universal.

But, if the non-custodial parent's visitation rights are affected by the move, you need to file a motion in the state that issued the order before moving. In some cases, moving across a state line does not affect the child's time with the non-custodial parent. The parents may still follow the visitation schedule if distance is not an issue. It sometimes helps to address how to handle an out-of-state move by either parent in the initial parenting plan or child custody agreement.

A far-away move by one of the parents who share joint physical custody with the other parent will be difficult to follow and likely need creative tailoring of the order. In cases where a parent wishes to move and the other parent does not agree to the move, a court will focus heavily on comparing what the child's life will look like if the court permits the move versus not allowing the child to move and potentially changing custody to the other parent.

It is typically easier for a parent with sole legal custody and sole physical custody to move as parenting time for the non-custodial parent can often be adjusted to maintain the relationship the child has with that parent.

Imagine a situation where domestic violence is happening in a family. Like a grandparent, a person acting as a protector has taken physical custody of the child to keep them safe. This person might move to another state for the child's safety and care. This is where the interstate "full faith and credit" custody law comes into play.

The following explains the full faith and credit custody law and when and where it applies. This law applies to interstate child custody.

Full Faith And Credit Given To Child Custody Determinations

Congress passed the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) to create consistency in state custody laws. This federal law requires every state to enforce any custody or visitation determination made by a court of another state. The law stems from the Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause, so it is often known by that name.

For example, authorities in California have to enforce and abide by custody orders made by a Florida court. This applies to minor children and includes permanent and temporary orders, initial orders, and modifications made by the “home state" court.

The federal statute defines the home state as the state where the child lived with either one or both parents for at least six consecutive months. If the child is under 6 months old, it would be the state where the child lived from birth with either parent. Temporary absences do not usually interfere. Mere physical presence in a state isn't enough.

Applicable Custody Determinations

To qualify under the Full Faith and Credit custody law, a child's home state court must make custody or visitation determinations. It has jurisdiction under the state's laws. A court could also have jurisdiction if:

  • It appears that no other state would have jurisdiction as a home state
  • It's in the best interests of the child that a court of that state assume jurisdiction because the child and their parents have a significant connection with the state
  • There is strong evidence supporting the child's present or future care, protection, training, and personal relationships in that state

If a valid custody determination hasn't been ordered yet, the provisions of the UCCJEA apply.

A court in a particular state can hear a custody case if that state has been the child's home state within six months of the date the legal action was brought and at least one parent continues to live in the state. Or, if a state with jurisdiction over a custody case declines jurisdiction or no other state may assert jurisdiction over the child, a court of a state where the action is filed can issue an applicable determination on the custody of a child.

Modification of Custody Determinations

Generally, a court cannot modify a custody order made by a court in another state. Even if no order has been filed with the court yet, as long as custody proceedings have begun, a court in another state cannot exercise jurisdiction or make its own custody determinations. If a state court has decided on a custody case, it usually doesn't matter where the parties involved might go.

However, a court can modify a determination if the original court of the other state no longer has exclusive jurisdiction or has declined to exercise its jurisdiction. The court can order that the case be heard in a more appropriate forum. An “inconvenient forum" is a legal concept where a court decides it's not the best place for a case to be heard. For example, the court can decide not to take the case if the case is too far away from where the people involved live — or if another state has more connections to the child.

Courts might also create temporary emergency jurisdiction in some situations. If the child is in immediate danger or needs urgent protection orders, a state can use its emergency jurisdiction to make an emergency order about the child's custody.

Enforcing Child Support Orders Across State Lines

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) is another important law. This law helps enforce child support orders across state lines. The main point here is that a person's “mere physical presence" in a state isn't enough for that state's court to change a child support order from another state. Also, the “temporary absence" of a child or parent from a state doesn't mean the state loses its power to decide about child custody or support.

Law enforcement helps enforce these laws and orders. They help protect children and other family members from harm, no matter where they are in the country. These laws may seem complicated. But, at their core, they help protect children and ensure their safety and well-being.

Custody Cases are Complicated: Get Professional Legal Help Today

Navigating child custody issues and understanding the federal Full Faith and Credit custody law can be confusing. If you have an existing child custody case or want to know your rights and responsibilities, legal professionals can help. They can help advocate for the custody of the child in the child custody proceedings.

A legal professional can guide you through family law and state law that applies to your case. They can help you navigate court orders and custody arrangements. A family law attorney can also help you advocate for your child support orders. They will provide valuable legal advice about child custody law. If you need advice concerning your custody dispute or representation in family court, you should consider speaking to a lawyer.

Contact an experienced local child custody attorney today.

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