When the Other Parent Lives in a Different State

Child custody matters can be difficult to handle when the other parent lives near you. But if one of you lives in another state, you might have to resolve procedural and jurisdictional disputes before you even get to the point at issue.

In the past, parents often had to spend unnecessary time and money arguing over which court had jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination or a modification of an existing order. Commonly, rulings were contradictory and inconsistent.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was drafted in 1997 to guide state courts on these issues. The UCCJEA has been adopted by almost every state in the country, including Minnesota, and is contained in Chapter 518D of the Minnesota Statutes. The statute does not govern the actual child custody laws applied to a case but rather which state’s laws to apply based on which court has jurisdiction over the matter.

Key provisions of the UCCJEA include the following:

  • Jurisdiction to determine initial custody Initial jurisdiction is based on the child’s home state during the six months immediately prior to the custody proceedings. If this cannot be determined, then the state in which a parent has a significant connection has jurisdiction.
  • A court’s exclusive and continued jurisdiction The state where jurisdiction is initially established retains exclusive jurisdiction over legal issues pertaining to the child. However, the jurisdiction is severed if the child and both parents move out of the state or if the child or a parent no longer has a significant connection to the state.
  • Court’s authority to modify orders Only the court with jurisdiction can modify an existing child custody order. A parent seeking modification can request revised jurisdiction if the parents and child no longer meet the requisite residency or significant connection criteria in the state with current jurisdiction.
  • Emergency custody situations Regardless of whether the state has jurisdiction, a court has authority to make a temporary custody decision in an emergency situation when the child needs immediate protection from harm. However, the state with an existing order retains authority to make a permanent ruling.

When parents and children live in different states, child custody issues are complex. A Minnesota family lawyer can help you with multi-state custody determinations, modifications and enforcement.

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