The UCCJEA often requires courts in different states to cooperate with each other. So, if the UCCJEA applies to your child custody case, it is important to understand the role that the court will take in your situation. You can learn about court cooperation, court communication, and child custody jurisdiction of the court in this article. Be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to the UCCJEA, for much more information. Our Ultimate Guide to Texas Child Custody Cases may also be helpful to you.
Communication and Cooperation
Family courts often have to communicate with the "home state" when there are cases filed in more than one state. The 'home state' is given priority to keep or release follow up orders. For original orders, it is a 'first to file' decision authority system. Courts from different states are allowed to interact with one another and should when necessary. When communication between courts in different states occurs, courts can allow the parties to take part in the communications. But again, this is not a requirement. If parties are not able to participate in communications, they must have an opportunity to present arguments and facts before a judge makes a decision regarding jurisdiction. If communication takes place, the UCCJEA states that there must be a record of the conversation. All parties involved in the communication must have access to the record.
Who can be Subpoenaed?
In some cases, a witness might be outside of the subpoena range by the Texas court. This usually happens if a witness lives in another state. If this happens, the UCCJEA has a method for obtaining the testimony of this type of witness. Any party involved in child custody proceedings has the right to offer witness testimony, even if that witness lives out of state. Testimony is acquired through a deposition. The court has the right to make its motion for the testimony of someone who lives out of state.
The court can also ask a witness living out of state to produce their deposition through the use of video, telephone, or other electronic means. Testimony may occur in court or at some other location. Texas courts should cooperate with other courts to designate a place for the deposition to happen.
Texas courts have the right to request the following from courts in other states:
- Order an evaluation.
- Order someone to provide evidence.
- Order someone to produce evidence.
- Hold an evidentiary hearing.
- Forward presented evidence.
- Forward a copy of a transcript recorded at a hearing.
- Forwarding an ordered evaluation.
- Assess expenses.
Initial Child Custody Determination
How is child custody jurisdiction determined? The Texas Family Code states some things that must occur for a state to claim initial jurisdiction. First, if the state is the child’s home state at the time the proceedings begin, that state will have initial jurisdiction. Also, consider that the home state is the state that the child lived in for the six months before the beginning of the child custody proceedings.
If Texas is not considered the initial or home jurisdiction, it can still take action in some cases. For example, if the home state declines to exercise their jurisdiction, Texas courts can take over. Also, this is possible if the court in another state does not have jurisdiction. If one parent has a significant connection to Texas, and Texas is a more appropriate place for the proceedings to take place, Texas may claim jurisdiction.
Once a court with jurisdiction makes a determination in child custody proceedings, that court has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over that order. There are only a few situations in which this exclusive jurisdiction ends. For example, this might occur if a court in Texas determines that the child or the parents of the child don’t have significant ties to Texas. This might also occur if the child or the child’s parents no longer live in Texas.