Interstate Child Custody: Modification of Existing Order Jurisdiction

Gavel in front of law books

If you have found yourself in a position where you and your child are relocating to a state where many legal proceedings regarding your child’s wellbeing and custody arrangements have been made, it is important to know the jurisdiction and combination of laws regarding interstate custody jurisdiction. Prior to your relocation, it will be important to discuss with your Orlando Child Custody Attorney the necessary requirements you will need to follow to adhere to proper interstate jurisdiction requirements.

All interstate child custody disputes are governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, or UCCJEA. The UCCJEA has been adopted by 49 states with Massachusetts being the final state who has yet to adopt this protocol. The UCCJEA provides a national standard for child custody determinations and when states must defer to the rulings of other states to provide for a cohesive formulation that focuses on fairness and the best interest of the child. The first distinction to be made is if the case is one where there is a valid child custody order already in place. This generally occurs when a parent and child relocated from a state where an initial custody action was filed, the child is temporarily in the state, or was removed to the state. In the majority of cases, the initial state will retain jurisdiction over the case and a foreign state will not be able to modify the term of the order unless certain elements are met.

You have relocated to a new state and are seeking modification of a previously entered child custody order, you must first register the out of state order within your current state. To register your existing child custody order, you must provide information regarding the child’s address for the last five years, and the individuals the child has lived with during those five years. Once this information is filed, the clerk will provide notice to the other parent who may then contest the foreign registration of the court. If no objection is made, the order becomes enforceable within the state after 20 days. However, enforceability does not allow the foreign court to make modifications to the custody arrangement.

When seeking modification within the new state, you must overcome the jurisdictional hurdles implemented by the UCCJEA. For instance, once an initial child custody order has been entered by a state, that state retains exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over the case. Therefore, even if the new state you have relocated to, meets the definition of the home state of the child, it may not have jurisdiction over the matter, as priority is given to the state in which the original custody arrangements was determined. There are two methods in which a state may lose their exclusive jurisdiction, when neither the child or either parent continue to reside in state, or have significant connection with the state. Further, the court who retains the exclusive jurisdiction may decline to exercise their jurisdiction because the new state would be a more convenient forum or the initial state retains no significant evidence regarding the child’s wellbeing such as education, social, family, or health care. ┬áIf exclusive jurisdiction is lost or disclaimed by the court, then the new state may modify the existing and registered foreign judgment.

In other cases where there is an existing child custody order, the new state may maintain temporary or emergency jurisdiction over the action. Temporary jurisdiction allows the foreign state to enforce a visitation agreement. The foreign court’s order is only temporary and specifically notes the expiration of the temporary order. A court may also exercise jurisdiction when an emergency arises where the child is in danger. Again, these emergency orders are temporary in nature and the child will likely be returned to the state in which the original order was made.

The involvement of multiple states in the lives of you and your child can become overwhelming and confusing. However, if you take proper steps and discuss the necessary actions with your Orlando Child Custody Attorney prior to, or immediately following your relocation, you and your child will be better equipped to handle the complicated jurisdictional element of child custody orders within the United States.

Speaking to an attorney at our Orlando office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 407-512-0887 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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