If your children live in a different state than you do, it can be hard to know where to go to court. But this is one area of family law that is the same across the country. It all depends on what your child’s home state is.
Whether you are dealing with a long-distance divorce, a custody complaint, or a modification to an existing order, you need to know where to go to court. Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), the answer will depend on your child’s home state.
Home State Decisions in Divorces & Original Orders
If this is the first time you and your co-parent are going to court about your child, then the court will determine the child’s home state before entering an order. Only the state with “home state jurisdiction” will have the authority to enter orders regarding the child. If either parent and the child have lived in Michigan for at least six consecutive months (or since the child’s birth for infants under 6 months of age), then the case can be heard in Michigan.
The home state doesn’t change until it is established in another state. So if your child moved within the last 180 days, Michigan will still have authority to decide cases started before the 6 month mark. Courts can also hear a case if there is no other state with home state jurisdiction (including international cases), or when there is an emergency.
Home State In Post-Judgment Modifications
Child custody orders, including divorces, often need to be changed over time. But when a parent moves a child out of state, it may be hard to tell if the court still has authority to hear the case. As long as the original order was entered in Michigan and one parent still lives here, the court will be able to modify its decision based on post-judgment motions.
Many times, when a custodial parent moves out of state, he or she will try to argue that the child’s home state has changed and the local court should make decisions. But a Michigan court usually won’t modify another state’s order as long as that state still has decision making power. The same is true in most other states. To get around that assumption you or the other parent will have to show:
- That the other state is more convenient for parties, evidence, and witnesses; or
- That neither a parent nor the child is still connected to the original court’s state.
Because the UCCJEA is based on federal guidelines and funding statutes, most states apply the same rules in deciding whether to exercise jurisdiction.
Custody actions (including divorces) that involve more than one state are always more complicated. If your family law action crosses state lines, make sure you have a knowledgeable family law attorney who knows how to navigate the laws. Attorney Lisa J. Schmidt at Schmidt Law Services, PLLC, in Ferndale, Michigan has handled a variety of interstate custody and child support issues. Contact Schmidt Law Services today to schedule a free consultation today.