It is common for parents of young children to live in different states, which means that when it is time to consider questions of custody and parenting time, it is important to know which state has authority (jurisdiction) to make decisions regarding a minor child.
It is easy to imagine a situation in which parents living in separate states each try to file for custody in the state where they live, or in which a non-custodial parent from New York could flee with their child to another state and attempt to establish custody there. In order to avoid the confusion that could cause, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was drafted and adopted by almost every state in the country, including New York.
The attorneys of the Law Offices of Andreas Vasilatos, PLLC are experienced in helping parents navigate the complexities of interstate custody issues and the UCCJEA. We recognize that your children’s well-being and safety is your highest priority. We make it ours as well.
The UCCJEA prevents multiple states from claiming the right to hear and decide child custody matters. There is a priority that determines which state has the right to make an initial custody determination. Once a state has jurisdiction over a child custody matter, it has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction. That means that no other state can hear a custody dispute regarding the child, except in an emergency as described below.
Under the UCCJEA, the child’s “home state” has the right to make “Home state” is defined as the state in which the child has lived with a parent for the six months immediately preceding the litigation. Vacations and brief temporary absences from the state do not nullify its home state status. For a child younger than six months old, the home state is the one in which the child has lived since birth.
If there is no state that meets the criteria for a “home state,” then a state which has “significant connections” with the child and at least one parent, and which has “substantial evidence concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships” can assume jurisdiction over a custody matter involving the child. For instance, if a three year old child had spent most of her life in New York State, but was moved to New Jersey by a parent three months ago, no state could claim home state jurisdiction. However, New York could likely claim jurisdiction because of the child’s significant connections to the state.
Under some circumstances, a home state or a state with a significant connection may decline to exercise jurisdiction over a child custody dispute if there is a more appropriate forum, such as another state in which the other parent lives and where the child spent most of their life.
There is an exception to the home state rule for cases of domestic abuse. If a parent has left the home state with the child for their safety, the state to which they have traveled may make a temporary custody order on an emergency basis. If there is a custody order in a home state, the parent and child must litigate future custody issues there when it is safe to do so.
Interstate custody and jurisdictional issues are complex. It’s important to work with an attorney who has a thorough understanding of the UCCJEA and who will act swiftly and decisively to protect your child’s safety and their relationship with you. At the Law Offices of Andreas Vasilatos, PLLC, we have the legal knowledge, the advocacy skills, and the compassion parents need in this stressful situation.
The Law Offices of Andreas Vasilatos, PLLC has two convenient locations: in Bayside, Queens and at 7 World Trade Center in Manhattan, and serves clients in all five boroughs of New York City as well as Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties. We invite you to learn more about our firm and our team, and to contact us to schedule a consultation. We look forward to working with you.