Texas Interstate Child Custody Issues and Laws

Child custody issues come in all forms. Know your rights and what you can do when it comes to interstate child custody issues.
- Zinda & Davis, PLLC, January 11th, 2013

Published January 11th, 2013

Texas Interstate Child Custody Issues and Laws

The “Full Faith and Credit Clause” in The Constitution of the United States requires judges to enforce valid judgments and decrees that are issued in other states.  In the past however, judges routinely disregarded valid interstate custody arrangements and orders.  Instead they would make new judgments based on the evidence that they had at the time.  This created a lot of confusion and left open the possibility of conflicting custody judgments for the same child in different states.  It was possible for a parent to have legal custody in state X, but be considered a kidnapper in state Y.  This led to the creation of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. 

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) has been enacted by all states except Massachusetts and Vermont.  This act sets standards for courts to make custody decisions that will be accepted by other states in the future.  It creates consistency from one state to another.

Under the UCCJEA a state court has jurisdiction to make decisions about child custody if (in order of preference):

  • The child’s home state is the state making the decision.  The child must have lived with a parent in the state for at least 180 days prior to legal action.  Or, the child must have been residing in the state but is currently absent because a parent took the child to a different state.
  • The child has strong connections with people in the state.  Teachers, doctors and grandparents are a few of these types of connections.  There should also be substantial evidence in the state that concerns the child’s well-being, protection, training and personal connections, such as friends.
  • The child is in the state as a safety measure.  This is generally due to the child being removed from another state because of fear, abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
  • No other state can meet one of the three tests above.  It is possible for another state to meet one of the above but has declined to assert jurisdiction over the matter.

Even if the child is currently present in the state, under the UCCJEA, it is not possible for a court to issue a child custody judgment if one of the above tests is not met.  If a parent wrongfully removed or retained a child in a state to make that state the child’s home state, the parent will be denied custody.  If more than one state meets the above tests then the UCCJEA dictates that a child custody judgment can be issued by only one of them on a first come first served basis. 

The UCCJEA also helps in situations where one parent kidnaps a child and seeks custody in another state without informing the court.  The following example may help illustrate this point:  Suppose Frank and Jane were married in Texas.  Frank’s job required the couple to move to California a few years later.  Jane gives birth to their first and only child Alex in California.  They all live together for 8 years until Frank becomes upset, leaves Jane, and takes Alex to Arizona planning to divorce Jane.  Frank immediately gets an apartment in Arizona and tries to file for a custody award of Alex.  However, Arizona is unable to award custody because California is Alex’s home state.  Jane is free to go to a California state court to request a custody award.  Keep in mind though, if Frank had removed Alex from California because Jane was abusive and an alcoholic, Arizona may be able to rule in favor of Frank in a custody hearing.   

Ultimately, child custody is one of the most difficult parts of divorce. Neither party wants to give up the chance to spend time with their children, but an agreement has to be reached for the overall wellbeing of everyone involved. The custody lawyers at Zinda & Davis can help to ensure that an agreement is reached in an efficient and timely manner, and can help to ensure that you reach a custody agreement that is suitable for both of you. Contact Zinda & Davis today for more information.


This article originally appeared on this site:  AustinCustodyLawyers.com

Tags: Interstate custody law | Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act UCCJEA | Interstate | | |

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