Interstate Custody Attorneys in San Diego
Divorce can be difficult for any family, especially when children are involved. In most situations, the divorcing parents can reach a satisfactory custody arrangement that allows both of them to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children. However, if one parent moves out of state, this can put an immense strain on everyone involved and make it challenging to ensure that the rights of both parents are honored.
Who Determines Interstate Custody?
While California has very clear guidelines for how to award child custody following a divorce, every state is different. That means the laws that apply in San Diego will not be the same as those in New York. The first step in adjudicating a custody dispute between two parents in different states is determining which location has jurisdiction.
Most states adhere to what is known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). These guidelines were drafted in 1997 and have been adopted by every state and territory of the United States with the exceptions of Massachusetts and Puerto Rico. Among other things, the act stipulates that any litigation between two parents who live in different states will be heard in the child’s home state.
What’s a Home State?
The home state is defined as the state where the child has lived with a parent for six consecutive months prior to the commencement of the proceeding.
This means if your child has been living in California for the past six months, your case will be heard here. On the other hand, if your child lives in another state and you are located here, then the proceedings will need to take place in that other state. If the child has not been in a single state for the past six months, then jurisdiction will be decided based on a "substantial connection" between the child and at least one parent and the state.
If there is some dispute regarding the child’s state of residence, that will need to be settled before any custody hearings can be held.
Exceptions to the 6-Month Residence
There are certain exceptions allowed under the UCCJEA, the primary one being if the child has been removed to another state for safety reasons. For instance, if there is evidence of repeated abuse on the part of one parent, either towards the child or the other spouse, than the six-month prerequisite might be set aside to allow for the proceedings to take place in the new state. Other exceptions might be made if the child has significant connections to people in the state, for instance grandparents.
Why UCCJEA Rules Exist
The UCCJEA also has language that bars parents from removing a child from his or her home state in order to establish a new jurisdiction. This law is in place to prevent a parent from kidnapping his/her own child and then getting a custody hearing in a new state. The UCCJEA makes it impermissible for a state to issue a custody order when another state has already issued one in cases where more than one state has jurisdiction.
Once a custody arrangement has been made, the UCCJEA also creates a framework for its enforcement. Laws have been set up to make it possible to adjudicate disputes between parents who live in different states. This allows visitation rights to remain in force across state lines, and creates a system for resolving complicated coparenting issues in two different locations, like which parent is responsible for transporting the child between the two households, and where the child will go to school.
Attorneys for Interstate Custody Disputes
As you can see, interstate custody can be quite complex. This is why it is essential that you have a legal team on your side that not only understands California family law, but also has experience with the UCCJEA and is familiar with the rules and regulations in other states.
At Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C., our number one priority is protecting families and achieving fair and satisfactory results for our clients. To schedule a free consultation, call (858) 458-9500 today.
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