The term “interstate” means among or between states. An interstate custody agreement is a child custody and visitation plan between two parents who live in different states. The purpose of an interstate custody agreement is not only to manage interactions between parents in relation to their children but also to allow for the continued enforcement and decision-making power of the court in child custody matters.

The Home State of the Child

When parents live in different states, or a child relocates, it is imperative to determine what court has the authority to rule on child custody issues. To eliminate confusion, courts and parents must refer to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) to ensure child custody cases are filed in the proper state.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act is a federal act used to determine jurisdiction in a child custody case and the procedures to follow when a child relocates to a new state.

Per the UCCJEA, the proper state for initial child custody proceedings is the child’s home state. The home state is the state in which the child has resided for at least six months. In emergencies, a court may exercise jurisdiction over a child if that child is within their state regardless of the time of residency.

After an initial child custody order is entered, that court retains jurisdiction unless and until the child custody case is transferred. Should another court rule that the child’s home state has changed and accept jurisdiction of the custody case, the original court has the option to decline jurisdiction.

Factors in Determining a Child’s Home State

While the court typically uses the six-month residency guide when determining a child’s home state, this is not always possible. When a child and their custodial parent have recently made multiple moves, other factors must be considered when making a ruling.

These include:

  • Where the child attended or attends school;
  • Where the child receives their primary medical care; and
  • If there is proof of intended residency in one state as opposed to visitation in another.

Intent of residency is a critical factor in making a home state decision.

Enforcement of Interstate Custody Agreements

As a custodial parent moving with a child to a new residential state, it is wise to register any court-ordered custody agreements with the appropriate court and request that the court exercise jurisdiction. If a non-custodial parent takes and keeps a child out of state without permission, it may also be necessary to register the child custody order to get the help of law enforcement in an enforcement action.

Pending Child Custody Cases and Leaving the Home State

A parent should not leave the state with their child during a pending child custody or divorce case. If necessary, it is crucial to consult an experienced child custody attorney as any such action could negatively impact future child custody orders.

A parent may even face kidnapping charges for removing a child from the state without express consent from the court.

Initial Interstate Custody Agreements

Initial interstate custody agreements allowing a parent to relocate may be discussed and agreed to by the parents or heard and ruled on by the court. When a court decides on a child relocation case, it ultimately does so based on the best interests of the child.

Included in a child’s best interests are their health, safety, welfare, and a continuing meaningful relationship with their other parent. Any history of domestic abuse or threats to the child are also taken into account when considering a move.

Recognition of Interstate Custody Agreements Amongst the States

All U.S. family courts recognize and may enforce a child custody and child support order from another state. It does not matter if the current state’s laws are different from the previous state.

Speak with an Experienced California Child Custody Attorney

To speak with an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney about interstate child custody or child support orders in California, contact the professionals at Fernandez & Karney. Our attorneys have the skills and experience necessary to draft, litigate, and enforce interstate orders regardless of their complexity or urgency.

Reach out to Fernandez & Karney now to schedule your confidential consultation. We will listen closely to your situation and offer practical, competent advice in moving forward with your case.