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How to Change Jurisdiction in Child Custody Cases

Published on Jul 3, 2018  |  in child custody

Many Americans travel for work, relocate often, or generally want to start fresh after a divorce, which may entail moving to a different city or state. When it comes to child custody cases, parents should know what to expect when it comes to changing jurisdictions and their custody arrangement. Divorcing parents may decide to move to different areas or one parent may remain in the previously shared home while the other moves out of state. In these cases, jurisdiction may shift for a number of reasons.

It’s unwise for a parent to assume that the terms of an existing custody arrangement no longer apply once the parent moves to a new state. Generally, it takes six months for jurisdiction to shift to a new state of residence, and the state may intervene in the event of an emergency or a parent’s illegal violation of a custody agreement. To help better understand how to change jurisdiction in child custody cases, Austin child custody attorney Abraham Kant explains below.

Home State Jurisdiction

Rulings concerning the custody arrangement will fall under “home state jurisdiction,” or whichever state in which the child resides the most. If the child resides in a state for six months or more, then that state generally has jurisdiction over the custody arrangement. If the child moves with a parent to a new state, the previous state will retain jurisdiction for six months, and then jurisdiction will shift to the new state. However, if one parent remains in the original state and the other parent moves, custody jurisdiction becomes more complex.

For example, a divorcing couple decides that one parent will remain in the original state where the family resided and the other parent will move to another state for work. The courts of both states may then come into play to determine the best interests of the children. Depending on the family’s situation, the age of the children and their unique needs, and the financial status of each parent, the courts may decide that living in one state is clearly in the children’s best interests as opposed to the other. If the children have other relatives such as older siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins in one state, this may also influence the courts’ ruling.

Temporary Emergency Jurisdiction

In rare circumstances, a court may issue a temporary emergency order and assume jurisdiction over a child or custody case in the event that someone abducts the child, a parent abandons the child, the child faces abuse or mistreatment, or if the child requires protection. In the event someone takes a child out of the country, the case may escalate to the Hague Convention which manages international child abduction cases. If a parent takes a child out of state and the other parent notifies the authorities, the state in which the child and other parent currently reside may assume jurisdiction to return the child to the other parent.

Preventing Jurisdictional Disputes

Ultimately, both parents in any custody arrangement have an obligation to abide by the rules set forth in their arrangement. The court rules in favor of the best interests of the children, and parents may not always agree with every element of a custody arrangement. However, violating a custody arrangement or taking a child out of state without the other parent’s permission can lead to significant legal penalties.

Parents should keep in touch concerning their children, their travel plans, or their plans to move out of state. Although some divorces end on a bad note and the divorced spouses may have strong feelings about each other, they should not let those issues bleed through into issues concerning their children’s best interests. When the jurisdiction over a child custody matter is questionable, a reliable and experienced Austin family law attorney can provide guidance and legal advice for families in Texas.