Going through a divorce can be enough trouble without having to worry about issues like the jurisdiction of your child custody hearings. That's why it is important for parents to know their rights when they discover their ex-spouse plans to move out of state. The first step in that process is understanding how multi-state parenting agreements work and when they become necessary.
If your ex is moving as part of the divorce
If your ex-spouse is leaving the state after your divorce is finalized, or if he or she has already moved prior to the divorce finalization, then there are a few different ways that the courts determine which state has jurisdiction for the purposes of a custody determination. The goal of these criteria is to make sure that the child's custody is decided by the "home" state, and these measures allow a judge to assess that.
1. The state the child currently resides in is usually given jurisdiction, provided that the child has lived there for a long period of time and has not recently relocated.
2. The court may also look at the relationships your child has developed with teachers, coaches and other members of the community to determine this, especially if you have moved often.
3. A state's court may also grant itself jurisdiction if the reason the child is in the state is one that affects the child's safety and well-being.
Once a court decides to hear out the custody dispute, proceedings occur much like they do in other custody disagreements. The role of the court at that point is to decide how custody could best be shared while only minimally disrupting the child's relationships and connections to established communities and with respect to the child's safety.
Moving out of state with an existing custody order
If you or your ex-spouse decides to move after an initial custody order is reached, then a new filing will have to be made and a new hearing will have to be set, unless you can come to an agreement about visitation and custody on your own. It is important to remember that a new state cannot change the custody agreement made in your old state, which could put limits on moving out of state with the children or set expectations for visitation that become impossible to honor from a distance.
If your ex is moving out of state and expecting to take children you share parenting responsibilities for, you need to know your rights. Talk to an experienced custody attorney about protecting your visitation and custody rights today.