When parents separate or divorce, it is not all that uncommon for one parent to move to another state to pursue a career opportunity or to be closer to extended family. This often results in questions about which state has jurisdiction in a custody case if there is not an existing child custody order before the parent moves with a child.
Most all states have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) when making interstate custody jurisdiction determinations. Under the UCCJEA, the jurisdiction will lie in the child’s home state, or where the child (and the parent filing) have resided six months prior to filing an action.
If a child has not resided in one place for a period of six months, the court will examine where the child and the parent filing have the strongest ties, which may include factors such as where extended family lives and community involvement such as ties to a school or church.
That said, once jurisdiction is determined, the home state can decline to exercise jurisdiction in cases where the home state is an inconvenient forum, which might arise if one or both parents no longer reside in the home state or financial circumstances make it difficult to travel to and from the home state to attend to legal matters.
There are situations where a parent removes a child to another state without notice to the other parent, failing to provide the whereabouts of the child in an effort to establish a new home state jurisdiction. In cases such as these, the court in the new state may not exercise jurisdiction even after a period of six months has passed.
If a custody order exists in a state, that state will retain jurisdiction unless both parents and the child no longer reside in the state, or there is no significant connection to the state. If one parent wishes to remove a child under an existing order to live in another state, they must petition the court for leave. A court may or may not grant the leave after considering factors such as the wishes of the other parent, the wishes of the child depending on their age and maturity to voice an opinion, and whether the move serves the best interests of the child.
Jane Probst represents clients in Wisconsin and in Northern Illinois and has experience resolving interstate child custody disputes. When you have questions regarding interstate custody of a child, contact the Wisconsin family law attorneys of Probst Law Offices for answers today at 414-210-3135.