Today, families no longer stay in the same town as they grew up in or got married in. For both military members and civilians, your work might require you to change locations frequently. If you have to move across the country, it may not be possible to continue appearing in another state for child custody issues. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) has been adopted in 49 States to deal with inconsistencies in the jurisdiction laws for custody between states, however, you should always speak with a lawyer licensed in the state to ensure a full understanding of the law.
What is jurisdiction and why is it important? There are different facets to what jurisdiction is for legal purposes. One type of jurisdiction refers to which court you can ask to hear your custody case. If you are seeking to modify your current custody arrangement, then the court you ask to make that change must have the proper jurisdiction before you can go to court. Under the UCCJEA, there are four ways that a court can have jurisdiction: (1) home state, (2) significant connection, (3) more appropriate forum, and (4) no other state jurisdiction.
Home State Of these four, home state jurisdiction is preferred unless there is an emergency. Home State is given the most priority under the UCCJEA. The home state of the child is where the child lived for at least six months.
Significant Connection The custody case can also be brought where one parent and the child have significant connections with the state. This can be demonstrated if there is substantial evidence as to the child's care and personal relationships in the state.
More Appropriate Forum This basis for jurisdiction applies when the previous two have not been established or the court finds that there is another jurisdiction that is better suited to handle the case. Another jurisdiction may be more appropriate due to the access to evidence for example.
No Other State Jurisdiction You have to be able to bring your custody case in some court. Therefore, if no forum can be established under the above three bases, then you can bring your case in any state. This is very rarely used.
How does this help me in my new state? The original court has exclusive continuing jurisdiction to modify the custody order until it is established that the parents and child no longer have significant connections to that state anymore. This means that whichever court decided first that it had jurisdiction will likely keep that jurisdiction until the parties can show some legitimate reason why the case should be heard by a different court. As military members, we are familiar with being in one state and then being assigned to another base across the country. A parent should not have to travel back to that first base for a modification to their custody order. Under the UCCJEA they do not have to. The UCCJEA established uniform procedures to enforce your child custody orders between states.
Child custody cases can be a difficult situation for any family. The lawyers at Patriots Law Group are experienced in both family law and military law and how custody can impact a military family differently. Watch a video to learn about Child Support Basics in the state of Maryland or read our Blog on Child Custody in Maryland.
To learn more about how family law impacts military members differently visit our blog archive: https://www.patriotslawgroup.com/blog/.
DISCLAIMER: The information above is for general informational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is intended or created by this information. Each individual situation is different and therefore a formal in-person consultation is necessary before any specific advice may be relied upon as appropriate and accurate for a given situation. Please call Patriots Law Group at 301-952-9000 to set up a consultation if you wish to obtain specific legal advice you may rely upon. We serve clients anywhere in the world, with in-person consultations available at our Suitland, MD office — right next to Andrews Air Force Base — for clients in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.