Determining Which State Has Jurisdiction in New York Child Custody Cases Involving an Out-of-State Parent or Child

In today’s society, it is very common for families to move between states, especially when a couple’s children are young and parents are still developing their careers. While it has become easier over the past few decades for families to move between states, this situation presents a potentially complex situation if the couple divorces and one of the parents moves out of the state.Years ago, courts in different states were routinely entering conflicting orders in New York child custody cases. For example, a New York court may make an initial determination, only to have the non-custodial parent move out of the state and file a case in that court for a modification of the order. Under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the court in the non-custodial parent’s new home state should defer to the New York court; however, in practice, that was not always the case.

The result was the eventual passage of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act of 1997 (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA developed a system that has since been adopted by 49 states, including New York, which courts use to determine which state has jurisdiction over a child custody case.

While the UCCJEA is quite lengthy, the basic principle behind it is quite simple:  once a state makes a child custody determination, that state retains “exclusive, continuing jurisdiction” over the case until one of the following occurs:

  • The child, the child and one parent, or the child and a person acting as a parent do not have a significant connection with the state that initially made the custody determination, and there is no evidence of the child’s care, protection, training, or personal relationships in that state; or
  • A court of any state determines that the child, the child’s parents, and any person acting as the child’s parent no longer lives in the state that made the initial child custody determination.

This rule applies not just to issuing a new custody determination but also to any modification of an existing child custody determination. Thus, a court of a different state cannot make or modify a child custody determination if another state has jurisdiction over the case.

Of course, there are exceptions to these general rules. For example, any state can assume temporary jurisdiction over some cases in which a child has been abandoned or the child’s safety is in jeopardy. Importantly, the UCCJEA can be very complex, and New York child custody cases should be handled by an experienced New York family law attorney to prevent undue delay or forfeiture of certain rights.

Are You in the Middle of a New York Child Custody Dispute?

If you are currently in the midst of a child custody dispute with a former partner who currently lives or is planning on moving to another state, you should consult with the Law and Mediation Office of Darren M. Shapiro, P.C. Attorney Darren Shapiro has extensive experience handling New York child custody cases, including those involving an out-of-state parent or child. To learn more about how Attorney Shapiro can help you, call 516-333-6555 to schedule your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

New York Divorce and Claiming Children as Dependents Under the New Tax Law, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, January 15, 2018

The Changing Tax Laws on Divorce Maintenance Payments (Alimony) After 2018, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, January 5, 2018

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