UCCJEA : When the Same Suit has Been Filed in Multiple Counties

Walters Gilbreath, PLLC

If your child custody case contains a question of jurisdiction, there are some situations where simultaneous proceedings could come up. However, certain things must happen for simultaneous proceedings to apply. In this article, I will discuss such situation between Texas and other states.

Simultaneous Proceedings and Inconvenient Forums

Simultaneous proceedings can come up in some cases, but this does not mean that two different courts will have jurisdiction in child custody cases. Whenever a child custody case has been filed with more than one court, those courts will turn to the UCCJEA to determine which court has jurisdiction. Once the courts make this determination, the court with jurisdiction can stay, dismiss, or proceed with the case.

In some situations, one court might be considered to be an inconvenient forum for the case. If this comes up, one state court needs to figure out if a court in another state is a more appropriate forum for the case. The courts will determine this by using factors such as:

  • Domestic violence. If domestic violence occurred, the courts need to determine which state has a better chance of protecting the victims of abuse.
  • Child residency. If a child lives outside of one state, the courts need to determine the length of time involved.
  • The distance between courts.
  • Finances of both parties.
  • If any agreements happened between parties concerning jurisdiction.
  • Location and nature of evidence. This can include the testimony of the child.
  • Procedures required to present evidence, and each court’s ability to solve the case quickly.
  • Each court’s familiarity with issues and facts involved in the case.
  • Other relevant information or evidence.

Texas Family Code

If a court determines that another court can act as a more convenient forum for the case, that court stays the case so that the child custody case can proceed in another state. If a court determines that other conditions are just and proper, they can also impose those conditions. Texas law also says that one party can file a declaratory judgment motion and request that the court determines which court is the more convenient forum.

Unless a Texas court has emergency jurisdiction, if the party in that jurisdiction has done something unjustifiable, it has to give up the case. This must happen unless:

  • Texas court was determined the more appropriate forum.
  • Parties involved acquiescing jurisdiction.
  • The court finds that no other state has jurisdiction in the case.

If a Texas court declines jurisdiction, they still need to make sure that the child in the case is safe and that any unjustifiable conduct will not continue. This might mean staying the proceedings until the court that has jurisdiction can take over the case.

The Texas court also has the right to assess necessary expenses against a party involved in the case. This might include costs for communication, investigation fees, attorney fees, travel expenses, expenses for witnesses, child care, and more. This can happen unless the party shows that paying these expenses will be inappropriate.

So far, I have touched on the term “unjustifiable conduct.” Texas Family Code addresses this term. It means any conduct that is punishable by the court. For example, this could include removing, retaining, secreting, or restraining the child.


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