An Overview of Interstate Custody Arrangements

Determining child custody in a divorce can be a contentious and complicated matter in any scenario, especially if a child’s parents live in two different states. When parents involved in a custody battle do not live in the same state, this can create instances where more than one state could have jurisdiction over child custody and visitation. To solve these issues, the states have implemented numerous laws and interstate agreements to minimize confusion and create a uniform structure.

What Is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act?

child on a train, looking through the window, on an interstate child custody visitation scheduleInterstate custody schedules allow parents who live in different states a way to create a visitation schedule that works best for them. It must be created during the divorce process.

In order to solve issues of conflicting jurisdiction, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was created. Every state and the District of Columbia has enacted its own version of the UCCJEA, though the variations between states are often minimal. Generally speaking, a state is given the power to make a custody decision about a child if:

  • The state is the child’s home state: A child’s “home state” is the state in which they have lived for the previous six months.
  • The child has a substantial number of connections with people in the state: These connections can include connections to doctors, teachers, grandparents, and other personal relationships important to the child’s care and wellbeing.
  • The child’s safety could be jeopardized if sent back: A state may make a decision regarding child custody if sending the child back to the other state would possibly lead to abandonment, abuse, or neglect.
  • No state can satisfy the above tests: A state may decide custody if no state can meet the above criteria or otherwise has declined to assert its jurisdiction.

If multiple states meet the above criteria and share jurisdiction, only one state can make a decision. Whichever state issues a custody order first will carry the enforceability of law and cannot be overridden by the other states. Additionally, if a parent wrongfully removes a child from their home state or retains them in another state in order to make that state the child’s new home state, the parent cannot be granted custody. This protects against parents who wish to kidnap a child and seek a custody order without informing the other spouse or the court of the situation.

What Is the Full Faith and Credit Clause?

Judges in every state are required to enforce valid judgements and decrees that are issued in courts in other states under the United States Constitution’s “Full Faith and Credit Clause.” Despite the existence of this clause, judges in the past frequently would dismiss interstate custody arrangements and issue new orders based on the evidence presented before them at the time. This would lead to considerable confusion and create situations where multiple conflicting custody arrangements would be directed towards the same child at the same time. Thankfully, with the introduction of the UCCJEA, most of these issues no longer apply.

Top-Rated Family Lawyers in Riverside County

If you are in need of high quality legal representation for your child custody dispute, look no further than the knowledgeable Riverside County family lawyers at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich. Our skilled attorneys have more than 50 years of combined legal experience and can provide the results-driven counsel you need.

Take advantage of your free case evaluation or call our office today at (951) 506-6654 to discuss your case in further detail.

Learn More About Custody Cases

If you are facing a relocation case or have other concerns about your custody arrangement, discuss your case with a lawyer or learn more on these related pages:


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