Interstate Custody

Interstate Court Orders

There are special considerations for custody cases when parents and children reside in different states. It is important to meet with an experienced child custody attorney who understands jurisdiction. This impact where your case can be filed, when your case can be transferred to Texas or another state, and which issues need to be presented in which state.

To avoid conflicting orders and simultaneous cases for families, there were acts enacted to control jurisdiction in cases. For custody decisions, this is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). For child support decisions, this is the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act addresses most child custody decisions aside from child support. This includes parental rights and possession schedules. In most instances, if you do not have custody orders already in place you can file a case in Texas if Texas is the child’s home state or was the child’s home state within the six-month period prior to starting your case and a parent still resides in Texas. A child’s home state is where the child has last lived for six months, or if the child is less than six months then where the child has lived since birth.

Once a court issues an original custody order, that court retains exclusive continuing jurisdiction to make orders in that case until either the child and all parents no longer reside in that state, or the child and at least one parent no longer have a significant connection with that state. If you have moved to Texas and want to modify an order from another state, you will need to first prove that Texas meets the requirements to have made an initial child custody decision (e.g. your child has lived in Texas for at least six months).

In addition to this, the court from the prior state will need to determine that it no longer has exclusive continuing jurisdiction or that Texas would be a more convenient forum to hear your case. However, if neither the parents or child reside in the prior state, then you do not need to receive a determination from that state and Texas can make this determination to hear your case.

If you do not meet the requirements for an initial custody decision or to modify an order from another state, but you have possession of your child there is an exception to address emergencies. Texas would be able to exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction to protect your child if there is a threat of mistreatment or abuse.

Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

Similar to the UCCJEA, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act controls jurisdiction for child support orders. The primary difference for jurisdiction under the UCCJEA and UIFSA is that the UCCJEA focuses on where your child for establishing jurisdiction whereas UIFSA focuses on the party paying child support for jurisdiction.

While the focus for jurisdiction is on the party paying child support, this does not mean that Texas cannot make a child support order for a non-resident. If there is no child support order in existence, then you may be able to obtain a child support order even if the paying party does not reside in Texas. Circumstances where this is possible include when the paying party previously resided in Texas with the child, engaged in sexual intercourse in Texas and the child may have been conceived by that act, or was personally served with citation in Texas.

As with the UCCJEA, once a court issues a child support order that court retains exclusive continuing jurisdiction to modify that order. However, a key difference is that so long as either the paying party, the child, or the party receiving child support continues to reside in that state, another state cannot modify the child support.

If you recently moved to Texas and already have a child support order in place, unfortunately Texas courts cannot modify that order if your child or the other parent continues to reside in the state that issued your child support order, unless the parties consent on record that Texas should have jurisdiction instead.

While modification options in Texas may be limited if you have a child support order from another state and the child or other parents continue to reside in that state, you may still have an option to enforce your child support order in Texas and obtain a withholding order to send to the paying party’s employer.

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