How to Move a Custody Hearing to Another State

By Travis Gray, J.D.

How to Move a Custody Hearing to Another State

By Travis Gray, J.D.

In many cases, the laws related to divorce, spousal support, and property distribution can vary greatly by state. The opposite can be said for issues relating to child custody, however. That's because all states but one have adopted what's known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Under UCCJEA, it is not technically possible to transfer a case from one state to another. Under certain circumstances, though, the child's home state can change or decline jurisdiction or be superseded in case of an emergency. To move a custody case to another state, follow the steps outlined below.

Woman talking to a couple with solemn expressions as their child sits between them

1. Determine the home state of the child.

In determining a child's home state, the most important factor is where the child was residing recently. To file a custody action in a state, both the parent and the child must live there for the six months leading up to the filing. In many cases, it is the same as the state in which the parents filed for divorce. If the child has lived in more than one state during that six month period, the court determines which of the states has the strongest ties to the child. Once a home state is determined, a custody action can commence.

2. Determine if the home state will decline jurisdiction.

While not common, the home state may agree to decline jurisdiction in a situation where it is found to be an "inconvenient forum." When determining if the state exercising jurisdiction would be inconvenient for a child, the court considers factors such as the parent's financial situation as well as where the child currently resides.

Courts decline jurisdiction most frequently in cases where a child has moved across the country but has not yet lived in their new state for more than six months. However, the court is less likely to decline to exercise its jurisdiction if one of the parents is still a resident of the home state.

3. Consider emergency jurisdiction.

Even if the home state refuses to give up jurisdiction, a state other than the child's home state may exercise jurisdiction over a custody matter in the case of an emergency. This can occur in a situation where the current arrangement places a child in imminent danger or when the custodial parent is unable to care for the child. It is important to note that any emergency custody ordered issued by a state other than the child's home state is temporary.

4. Avoid allegations of fraud.

It is important to be truthful during this process. If in an attempt to unfairly seek a specific arrangement, such as sole custody, a parent attempts to file for custody in a state other than the child's home state, the filing must be rejected by the court. This is true in cases where one parent takes a child from their home state without permission and attempts to establish a custody case in a new state.

5. File your motion.

Once you determine the grounds appropriate for you and your child and the current court declines jurisdiction, file a motion asking your new state to accept jurisdiction over your child. If successful, your new state gains jurisdiction in your custody case.

Despite the UCCJEA lacking an avenue to transfer a case, there are some situations where you may be able to convince the courts that a new state should take jurisdiction of your child's custody case.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.