Sometimes, parents who are disputing custody live in different states. This adds an extra wrinkle to a divorce or custody case. If the parents cannot agree about which state should have jurisdiction, they will have to turn to litigation. Sometimes, the courts from both states will need to take part. Even if the parents agree, the attorney may still need to take great effort to iron out the situation.

In Utah and most other states, the question of which state has jurisdiction is decided by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). This act has been adopted by the state legislatures of most U.S. states. Take note that in discussing UCCJEA, this blog post speaks only in very general terms. There are exceptions and technicalities that may apply to your situation.

At Christensen Law, the attorneys are able to analyze your specific situation and advise you. With that said, here are some general guidelines regarding the UCCJEA. Typically, the state that should have custody jurisdiction is the child’s home state. A state becomes the child’s home state once the child has lived there with a parent for six months.

Until the child has lived with a parent in a state for six months, the child’s previous state of residence remains the home state, if the other parent continues to reside there. This means that a parent who takes a child and moves to another state should not be filing a custody case with the new state until at least six months have passed.

Additional Things to Consider

In some instances, if the child and parents have moved around enough, there may no state that qualifies as the child’s home state. Regarding that case, a state may claim jurisdiction if the child and at least one parent of the child have a significant tie to a particular state.

In other rarer instances, a state may have jurisdiction if other states or other states that should have jurisdiction have affirmatively decided to decline jurisdiction. One reason a court might refuse jurisdiction is if that court detects that a parent is gaming the system.