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Child custody issues across multiple states

Tennessee parents who are divorcing may wonder what will happen to their child custody agreement if one parent moves out of state. In general, a federal law ensures that a home state's custody ruling can be enforced in every other state. The home state is wherever the child lived for six consecutive months with at least one parent. For babies under six months old, it is wherever the child lived with a parent after birth.

If no other state has jurisdiction and it is in the best interests of the child that a certain state be named the home state, then that state can assume jurisdiction. An example may be if the child has significant ties in the state.

A state's version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act comes into play if there is not yet a valid custody determination. Under this act that has been adopted by nearly every state, if a child resides in a state within six months of the legal action and the parent still lives in the state, a court in that state can hear the custody case. A custody decision by a court in one state cannot be modified by a court in another state unless the issuing state does not have jurisdiction any longer.

As this demonstrates, custody issues can become complicated if more than one state is involved despite the reciprocal agreement between states. A parent who is trying to navigate these issues may want to consult an attorney who has experience with these types of matters. Furthermore, some child custody arrangements might become impractical to put into place if one parent moves out of state. Doing so generally requires further legal action.

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Stanley A. Kweller, Attorney at Law
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