Reasons to Change Jurisdiction in Child Custody

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

Reasons to Change Jurisdiction in Child Custody

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

You cannot move your children to another state without court approval unless you have full custody of your children and autonomy to make decisions for them. But there are legitimate reasons to ask the court for permission to relocate.

Father and daughter talking next to his suitcase as a mother watches while sitting on the couch

Life is complicated. Life doesn't stop when you're in the middle of a divorce or child custody case. You may be forced to make tough decisions during this time. Like you, the laws seek to protect your children's best interests. This is why the court carefully considers a parent's petition to change jurisdictions during child custody proceedings.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

Every state, except Massachusetts, has adopted the UCCJEA, which provides uniform guidelines and procedures for child custody cases. Under this act, a parent cannot unilaterally move their children and file for divorce in a different state.

When filing for divorce or custody, you must file in the state where your children have lived for at least the last six months. Even if you have legitimate reasons for moving, you cannot start divorce or child custody proceedings in your new state until your children have lived there for at least six months.

Moving Your Children During or After Divorce

Once your divorce is filed and even if it is final, you must seek court approval before moving your children to a new state. State law prioritizes providing both parents with the opportunity to be in their children's lives. If children move to a new state, this complicates the parent-child relationship.

You may have well-founded reasons for moving to a new state. A company may have offered you a new and better job, or your current employer may move to a new state and if you don't move too, you'll lose your job. Regardless of why you want to move to a new state, the court assesses how significant your reason is and how it impacts your children.

To move to a new state with your children, you must file a petition for relocation. You will have to present sufficient evidence to the court showing why this change of residence is in the best interest of your children. Your former spouse will have an opportunity to object to this move.

Domesticating Your Order

If your request to relocate with your children is approved, you should petition the court in your new state to domesticate the order. This means your new state accepts the divorce and child custody orders made in your previous state.

This is an important step in case you ever need to enforce the order. If your former spouse is not paying their court-ordered child support, you want to enforce the child support order in your new state. If you haven't domesticated the order, you won't have standing to bring the petition to court.

Moving to a new state with your children during or after divorce is a challenging process, but that doesn't mean you can't do it to better your children's lives. The court gives serious thought to the reasons you want to move. Though the law seeks to protect each parent's relationship with their children, certain circumstances—like relocating for a better job or a safer living environment—may be in the best interest of your children. If you have provided sufficient evidence, the court may allow you to move to a new state.

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.

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