Interstate custody arrangements must be made when a child’s parents live in two different states. Nearly every state in the United States, with the exception of Massachusetts and Vermont, has enacted what is known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. This act sets standards for courts when making decisions about child custody as well as when they must comply with an existing decision that was made in another state.
Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, child custody arrangements can be made by the state if:
- The state making the determination is the home state of the child. Usually, the child’s home state is decided based on the length of time they have lived there with a parent (at least 6 months before the legal action). In the case of a parent attempting to remove their child to a different state in order to declare a new home state, custody would not be awarded to that parent unless there existed some threat to the child’s safety.
- The child has substantial connections to people in the state. Significant connections are related to the care and well-being of the child, and can include connections with friends, grandparents, teachers, and doctors. The courts are not likely to grant custody to a parent in a state in which the child has no connections, unless their safety is at risk.
- The child is in the state for their safety. If there is any fear that the child may suffer abandonment, neglect, or abuse upon returning to their home state, their current state of residence may decide custody.
- The above three stipulations cannot be met by any state. This either means that no state can meet any of the above three tests, or they have declined to declare jurisdiction over the matter. If these requirements cannot be met, a custody arrangement cannot be made.
Prior to the enactment of this act, judges were free to make their own determinations based on different sets of evidence, making it much more likely for there to be confusion and conflict about custody agreements made in different states. Consequently, it was not uncommon for there to exist multiple custody orders for the same child, and a parent could easily fall into the trap of being a legal guardian in one state and a kidnapper in another. The “Full Faith and Credit Clause” eliminates some of this confusion by providing consistency in interstate child custody declarations. Ultimately, if a court in one state makes a decision, and one or more other decisions are subsequently made in courts in other states, the first decision is the one that is binding.
Get more helpful advice on interstate custody arrangements by contacting a Collin County family law attorney at Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers today.