For coparents who share custody of their children, navigating the challenges of coordinating schedules and transportation between two households can be challenging, and concerns over COVID-19 can make it even more stressful. Managing changes in family and living situations has made child custody in the age of COVID-19 even more complicated.
According to a Pew Research study, one fifth of U.S. adults (one-in-twenty) said they personally moved from where they were living either permanently or temporarily due to the COVID-19 outbreak. With more adults moving for economic or other factors, the chances are greater that interstate jurisdiction may become an issue in your Texas child custody agreement. If you and your coparent currently have a child custody agreement in the state of Texas and one of you decides to move out of state, you will need to determine interstate jurisdiction in order to make modifications to your child custody agreement.
What is Interstate Jurisdiction?
Interstate jurisdiction refers to the state that has the legal authority to enforce and modify a child custody agreement. Determining which state has jurisdiction over child custody can often be a complicated process.
In the event that one coparent decides to move out of state, a request should first be filed with the Texas court to grant the modification of the child custody agreement. Moving a child out of state requires approval from the court, which may or may not be granted. Depending on how agreeable the other parent is to the move, there may be serious objections and lengthy arguments over the requested modification.
How is Interstate Child Custody Jurisdiction Determined?
In order to determine which state has jurisdiction over an interstate child custody or child support case, the court will refer to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA has been accepted by 49 states (all except Massachusetts) and helps determine which state is considered the child’s home state.
The UCCJEA states that jurisdiction to make decisions goes to the state where the child:
- has lived for 6 months or longer;
- was living before being taken elsewhere by a parent seeking custody in another state;
- has established relationships in the state (teachers, friends, relatives, etc.);
- was abandoned; or
- is residing safely when there is threat of danger or abuse in their home state.
How is Interstate Child Custody Enforced?
Under the ‘full faith and credit clause’ of the US Constitution, decisions made by a state with proper jurisdiction must be respected by all other states. This means that when a Texas court issues a child custody order after being established as a child’s home state, that order must be recognized in other states.
However, when this process is affected by emergency circumstances, the law does provide the opportunity for a state to file a temporary emergency order. A temporary emergency order could be considered in a case where immediate action needs to be taken in the state where the child currently lives, regardless of the child’s home state status.
If a major incident or emergency situation happens outside of the child’s home state that requires emergency action, decisions can be made for the child according to the following rules:
- Temporary emergency orders can be filed by any state in which a child is in danger or requires immediate custody modifications.
- Modifications made from temporary orders will take the current custody orders from other states into account, but they will temporarily override the original agreements.
- Once the parent and child return to the child’s home state, that court will make a lasting ruling regarding the emergency order.
If there is no previous custody ruling or no home state has been determined, the order may become part of a final custody agreement, and the state issuing the order may become the child’s home state.
Help With Your Texas Interstate Child Custody Case
Interstate child custody and child support cases can be complicated and overwhelming. That’s why it is important to have someone on your side who is experienced in family law. Kelly J. Capps has over 25 years of experience in family law, including interstate and international custody issues. To arrange a consultation with Kelly J. Capps of Capps Law Firm, PLLC, please call our Austin office at (512) 338-9800.