Managing child custody across state lines can be challenging. In the past, states would have a hard time communicating custody orders between each other. Parents could even bring their children to a new state and sue for custody there, creating situations where a parent could have legal custody in one state and arrested for kidnapping in another. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) passed in 1997 to prevent these miscommunications and jurisdiction conflicts.

The UCCJEA is a universal State law that prioritizes the best interests of the children. It establishes several guidelines for determining custody and helps regulate custody across state lines.

Rules across state lines

The UCCJEA seeks to minimize child custody conflicts across state lines and protect children. Courts must meet at least one of the following requirements before adjudicating decisions about child custody arrangements:

  • The ruling state is the child’s home state: If a child has lived in the state with a parent for over six months, courts may consider this the child’s home state. Even if a parent has removed the child from the state, this rule applies.
  • The child has connections with people in the state: A child’s significant relationships with people in the state may establish the child’s home state. These people include grandparents, doctors, teachers and others. Parents should also provide supporting evidence that the business of the child’s care takes place in this state.
  • The child is in the state for their safety: If a parent removes a child from a state due to concerns for the child’s safety, the new state may make custody decisions. The courts may require the parent to present evidence of abuse, neglect or abandonment.
  • No state can meet any of the above requirements: If none of the above criteria apply, or a state has declined jurisdiction, the new state may decide to rule on child custody matters.

Design an interstate custody arrangement

The easiest way to manage multi-state custody is with a well-designed parenting agreement. A knowledgeable lawyer with experience drawing up custody arrangements will help build rules for a parent who wishes to move a child to a new state.