It’s not uncommon for divorced or unmarried parents to live in different states, although it typically makes co-parenting more challenging, especially in a joint custody situation. It’s also important to understand that a child custody order in one state is valid and enforceable in nearly every other state so custodial parents can’t simply pick up and move across state lines without following certain procedures. The Constitution of the United States sets up the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” that requires judges to enforce valid judgments and decrees that are issued by courts in different states. Interstate custody disputes are governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which is a uniform law passed by most states. In general, under the UCCJEA, a state court can make a decision about a child custody arrangement if the state making the decision is the child’s home state. For a state to be a child’s home state, the child must have resided with a parent in the state for at least six months prior to the legal action being brought. There are some other nuances that you should be aware of as well, but we will not go into those differences in this post. The UCCJEA benefits the laws in all states that follow it by creating consistency in interstate custody arrangements. In addition, it also helps with problems associated with one parent kidnapping a child and then seeking a custody award without informing the court of the situation.
If you are faced with a child being removed from your state, then here are three practical things to do immediately.
- Call the police and make a report. The police may do nothing, but you will want to create your evidence for when you go to court.
- File some action in court immediately. Again, the courts may not give you immediate relief, but the courts will ultimately be where the matter is resolved. The faster you act in court now the less time it will take in the future.
- Call the District Attorney’s office to report “custodial interference.” If you know where the child and other parent are located take the same steps as #1 and #3 in the other state as well.