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Our Charlotte, NC based child custody lawyers regularly receive phone calls from parties involved in interstate child custody disputes.  From a legal perspective, the first question that needs to be answered is “which state has jurisdiction over the custody case?”  Any time one or more parties and/or a child move to different states, there is likely to be a question over jurisdiction.  Only a court having proper jurisdiction may enter a valid child custody order.

The Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (the UCCJEA) provides a number of guidelines and rules regarding jurisdiction in interstate child custody matters. Our most recent blog addresses how jurisdiction is typically handled in initial child custody determinations, in modifications of existing custody orders, and in emergency situations.

In short, the “home state” of the child, which is the state in which the child has resided in for the six months preceding a child custody dispute, will typically be the state with jurisdiction in an initial child custody determination (i.e., when there is no prior child custody order in place).  A state that enters an initial custody order will typically maintain continuing and exclusive jurisdiction to modify that order so long as at least one of the parties or the child continue to reside in the issuing state.  Finally, any state (regardless of whether they would normally have jurisdiction) may have jurisdiction to enter a temporary emergency order in extreme situations which present a risk of harm to the minor child involved.  These are all general rules with exceptions.  For more, read our full blog on the topic of jurisdiction in interstate child custody disputes.

If involved in a child custody dispute, it is important to contact an attorney licensed in your local jurisdiction.  This article is meant to be a very brief overview of a complex subject, and is not meant to provide legal advice.

Written by Bill Hunter
Co-Founder and Attorney
Hunter & Hein, Attorneys at Law, PLLC