What to Consider When the Other Parent Lives in Another State

Almost every state across the U.S. has enacted a statute called the “Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.” Under this statute, standards are set for courts to make custody decisions and standards for when the court must yield to an existing custody decision that came from another state. Currently, only the states of Vermont and Massachusetts are not in alignment with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Generally, under this act, a court may make a decision about a child custody agreement if one of the following has occurred:

The court making the decision is in the child’s home state

For a state to be considered a child’s “home state,” the child must have lived with one of his or her parents in that state for a period of at least six months before legal action has taken place, or the child must have been living in that state but was removed from the state by a parent.

The child has important ties to individuals living in that state

These ties can include connections with doctors, teachers, or grandparents among other relationships. Additionally, there needs to be substantial evidence inside that state concerning the care and protection of the child as well as any training or personal relationships he or she may currently have or need to have, such as friendships.

The child is residing in that state for safety reasons

In general, this means that the child is residing in that state after being taken out of another state for their safety, usually from fear of neglect, abuse, or abandonment should the child be sent back to the state from which he or she was removed.

No other state can meet one of the three above criteria

Generally, this means that no other state can meet any of the criteria or situations outlined above, or that the state can meet at least one of the three above criteria but has declined to assert judgement over the issue.

As outline in the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, if a state cannot meet any of the above criteria, the court cannot issue a judgement on child custody even if the child is currently living in the state. Additionally, if a parent has removed or retained the child wrongfully within a state to make it the child’s home state, that parent can ultimately be denied child custody.

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7 thoughts on “Interstate Custody Arrangements”

  1. Jessica Scherer

    My children are 14 and 16. We want to move to Washington state from Vermont. Their father and I have 50/50 custody. Since both children are 14 and older do I need to go through the court system to get permission to move? The judge told us that once they turn 14 they can choose who they want to live with.
    Thank you for any help.

    1. Hello Jessica,
      I’m in the same situation right now. I have an almost 13 year old son and we live in Texas. When my fiance and I marry, we’re moving to Tennessee. We agreed in mediation that my son will stay with his dad since he didn’t want to move and that I’ll get him on all school breaks, every new years, summer, e.t.c.
      I was wondering how did things turn out with your situation?
      I’m concerned for the relationship between my son and me.

      1. Make sure everything is in writing and entered by a judge otherwise there isn’t any enforcement mechanism. And make sure there is also a provision about daily facetime/video chats. you can’t leave any of these things to chance or it will slowly fall out of your hands.

  2. My granddaughter is with CPS in NJ. My daughter abandoned her and has not been heard from since Feb 2020. We (my recent husband of almost 2 yrs) are trying to get through the foster care program here in Fairfax County, Virginia. Our case worker assigned is having us to report/fill out documents that pertain to 20-30 years ago that is not relevant today or to the case. She has, in my opinion, judged me because of my past that I was the abused and wants to have a release of information to speak to my therapist that was over 7 years ago and I no longer am in therapy (which was 5 yrs). I have since then, no longer taken on the victim or survivor role but that of a conqueror. She now says that if I do not give her the release it would look bad on the report and the “resistance” is concerning. She has also implied that our application of trying to be my granddaughter’s foster parents and ultimately adopt her is going to be disapproved based on her recommendation.
    My husband and I are federal employees, both veterans and both have security clearances. My husband is a retired Naval Officer and is a 19yr retired volunteer Paramedic and currently a Reserve Deputy Sheriff. I am a Army Vet and a 15 yr Federal Employee that works as an EEO Specialist. We are getting to a point that, I think the system of CPS is not for placing children with their ‘family’ as they claim they do.
    What legal advise do you have in our situation?

  3. I have a child living in the Virgin Islandswith his father . I live in Texas. The child was born in Texas. The father and I moved there together when he was young. I came back to Texas and the father cut all kinds of communication. Told the child another woman was his mother. This all happened 2009. I applied for assistance and was denied. And didn’t have the $ to do anything about it. I have finally recently got in touch with the father and my son. I want my son back In Texas primarily. And with his father In the summer. The father is a musician for a living. I believe my son is being neglected. And needs more of a family environment. Not living on an island with limited opportunities for success.

    1. This is going to be a difficult fight. Being that the child has not lived here for a decade, the court is going to want to know how bad it really is for this child that his entire life should be upended and moved thousands of miles away from his home, friends, father, and school.
      This is not to say that it is not in the child’s best interests, but you have an uphill battle to fight here.
      Be prepared for the judge to question why you waited so many years to do this, because the argument against you will be “if it is so bad, why did you leave your child there for so long?” that is what his attorney will ask you over and over again. And the response of “I just didn’t have the financial means to do anything about it until now” will not work. Judges hear that every day, most of the time by someone that just didn’t try, but sometimes, by parents like you that were truly struggling.
      I would also expect for the court to award you vacation time with the child, not primary custody because of all the time apart. that might not be the case if the father is truly not caring for this child though, but know that normally, if both parents are reasonable parents (ie. he may not be the BEST dad ever, but he’s doing average/fine), the courts would not want to make a drastic change and would normally take things with baby-steps, like awarding you some parenting time that increases over time.
      In the meantime, go get a 2nd job and a 3rd job and work nonstop so that you can ensure you have the financial resources to show the court that you are doing everything in your power to make sure your son has a stable home life in Texas and so that you can afford the best attorney possible to fight for you.

  4. Angela M Jones

    So my sons girlfriend just had there baby and my son is in jail longterm and she has lost one child and now CPS has detained my grandson at the hospital no one can see him but her and I guess all this is due to her not being able to pass a drug test. She lives in my house in Indiana and I live with my wife in Louisville ky we wont to take the baby. They say it would be a long prosses because I live out of state what can I do

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