Court Issues on Divorced Parents Moving to Separate States

By Valerie Stevens

Divorced parents who move to separate states must cooperate with each other or they could become mired in an interstate custody battle. Family court matters are handled on the state level. When part of the family moves to another state, it is not always clear which state has jurisdiction over the family members. Legislation seeks to clarify matters, but the laws are confusing. Some parents end up rushing to get to the courthouse first when interstate custody issues heat up.

Court Approval

A custodial parent who wants to move a child to a different state must have the consent of the non-custodial parent or win court approval. The standard by which U.S. courts makes decisions regarding minor children is “the best interests of the child.” That means that judges put more emphasis on the child’s benefit than the parent’s happiness. If the mother wants to move to a state where she has a better job or a better family support network, a judge might logically assume that the child will be better off in the new state. However, a mother’s desire to get away from her ex and start over might not be deemed a sufficient reason to uproot the child and physically separate the child from his father.


After one or both parents relocate to a new state, they might need to go back to court to seek changes in their custody arrangement. If a mother who has primary custody moves five states away, a father who has weekend visitation will probably want to adjust the schedule. Parents used to face confusion over which state court to ask for permission. If more than one state were to have jurisdiction over the child, parents could get embroiled in a legal mess of conflicting court orders. To avoid such chaos, almost every state has passed the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement. According to the UCCJEA, the state that originally ruled on a case maintains jurisdiction unless the states agree to transfer jurisdiction. The end result is that only one state can rule on changing the custody order.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More


When parents living in separate states need to go back to court, they have to return to the state where the custody order originated unless they petition the court to domesticate the order in the child's new home state. Generally, one of the parents files a petition to domesticate the out-of-state order when they have lived in the new state long enough. According to most state laws, the court has jurisdiction over any child that has been a resident of that state for at least six months. However, the UCCJEA gives the original state continuing jurisdiction so the states must agree to transfer jurisdiction to the new home state.

Child Support

Most custody rulings include orders for the non-custodial parent to pay child support to the custodial parent. However, in cases where there is no custody order, the custodial parent can seek child support from a parent who has moved to another state. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act governs the establishment, modification and enforcement of child support across state lines. This act, which has been passed by all 50 states, helps courts decide which state has the authority to hear petitions for child support.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Regulations for Child Support When Moving Out of State



Related articles

Child Custody Laws Concerning Deployed Parents

In many ways, military custody cases are the same as civilian custody cases -- and both are decided by state courts. When military parents deploy or move to a new duty station, however, custody orders may need altering to match the family's new situation. Depending on state laws, special rules may apply to the deployed parent's custody arrangements.

Massachusetts Laws on Moving Children Out of State

Massachusetts is one of the few states that allows a child to say whether he is willing to move to another state, provided he is old enough to reasonably give consent. However, if the child is not old enough, you must get the consent of the other parent or permission from the court to move your child to another state. A judge will base the decision on the circumstances surrounding the proposed move, such as the custody arrangement, parent-child relationships and effect the move is likely to have on the child.

Interstate Custody Laws

America is a mobile society and it’s not unusual for spouses to decide to literally move on after a divorce or even during a divorce – sometimes to another state. If they have children, however, this complicates the situation tremendously. It's enough of an issue that the federal government and individual states have passed legislation to deal with interstate custody matters, and it is important to understand the law if you share custody of your child or are in the midst of a custody dispute.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Custody Extradition Laws

Divorcing parents often fight over custody, and sometimes the custody disputes get so heated that one parent runs to ...

Reasons to Change Jurisdiction in Child Custody

Changing jurisdictions during your divorce can complicate matters, but it’s not always possible or desirable to stay in ...

California Child Custody Laws About Moving Away

California, like other states, considers the best interests of the child when making custody determinations. Judges ...

Can One Parent Take a Child Out of State Prior to Divorce Filing?

When spouses can no longer live together and are divorcing, they often want to put some distance between themselves. In ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED