It is increasingly common for cases to arise that involve parents living in different states. A common example would be a couple living in New York, had a child together, and then the mother and child moved to Texas. Or a married couple that splits up in Dallas and the child goes to live with a grandparent in Florida.
There used to be a great deal of confusion, but now all states have passed the UCCJEA (Uniform Child Custody & Jurisdiction Act). This is a complex law, but here the basics are as follows. We have created two detailed flowcharts that are subsets of this page on the drop-down menu. There was no other useful information that I could find on this subject in Texas, so we created them for you.
These are cases that are the first time anyone has been to court over their child. The basic rule is that the state where the child has resided for the past 6 months will get the case. However, it is more complex than this, since several problems with this simple rule can arise:
- the child may be under 6 months old (we won a case like this from Arizona in June 2013);
- the child may not have lived in any state for 6 months continuously because the parents moved around a lot (we won a case like this in March 2013 from Pennsylvania); and,
- certain exceptions can apply for family violence (a very common accusation, true or not).
Also, the Court where the case is filed first will ultimately get to make the decision about which State keeps the case. So it is important to file first. I have found (which is the opposite of what I expected) that Judges here in Texas want to keep these cases in their courts, and not send them elsewhere.
For cases that have been completed in the past, a different procedure is followed. This is basically modifications of Orders and Decrees. The state where the original Order was filed has Continuing Exclusive Jurisdiction. A State can lose this power when:
- none of the parents or children reside in the original state;
- a parent and child move to another state and the original state determines that it would be more convenient for the new state of have jurisdiction; or,
- after moving to a new state, a parent files in the new state and the parent in the old state does not contest jurisdiction.
This is truly one of the most complex areas of the law. You don't see me say this often, but if you have a case with this issue - hire an attorney. Don't even think of trying to handle it yourself. Most family law attorneys can't do this properly, and you certainly won't be able to.