How Interstate Child Custody Disputes Work

One of the trickier topics a child custody lawyer may be asked about is what happens when there are issues involving parents and kids who reside in different states. Interstate custody disputes are generally resolved based on the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. This is a federal law enacted in 1997 that required individual states to agree to abide by it. Every U.S. state except Massachusetts has agreed to the compact. 


The first issue that has to be addressed in a UCCJEA dispute is where the case should be heard. In American law, the question about which state has jurisdiction is considered an issue of forum.

Under the UCCJEA, the strongest argument for a state's court to be the forum for a case is that a child has resided in that state for the last 6 months prior to when the case was filed. In the absence of such evidence, the next strongest argument is that the child and one of the two parents have a strong connection to a particular state. Failing those two tests, any state to which the child has a connection at all will be the forum.

Seeking a Different Forum

The home state has the right to decline to be the forum for the case on the grounds that it is an "inconvenient forum." A more appropriate forum might exist in another state, and it is possible to file for a change of forum based on this logic. Some states will avoid being the forum, for example, if it appears one parent was hiding the child in that state purely to achieve a claim of forum. Other arguments for changing the forum may include financial hardship, travel distances, or an agreement between the two parents.

Examples of Interstate Custody Disputes

Child custody lawyer services providers will run into occasional cases where a kid was born to a parent from a different state due to the parents' living arrangements or work. As you might anticipate, disputes are more common in border areas, such as between the Kansas and Missouri sides of Kansas City.

Disputes can also arise if a custodial parent wants to move out of state. Generally, the courts do not allow these types of moves if they would deny the child access to one of their parents. One exception is if the court determines such a move would be in the best interests of the child.

To learn more about child custody, speak with a child custody lawyer from a firm like Cragun Law Firm.