Sometimes when the relationship between parents ends in divorce, one of the parents wants to relocate out of state and wishes to have the parenting plan and custody issues decided in the state where the parent has moved. However, the determination of which state has jurisdiction to make parenting plan orders and other child custody issues is determined by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA). Further, the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act prohibits a parent from simply moving a child to another state to obtain a more favorable forum for seeking a child custody decision.
The states that may have jurisdiction to rule on issues related to the custody or visitation of a child under the UCCJA are based on the following criteria:
• The child has significant connections to those within the state, such as extended family (e.g. grandparents) and the state is the location of significant evidence regarding the child’s education, care, personal relationships, and other relevant considerations.
• The child has lived in the state for the preceding six months or was living in the state prior to being removed by the other parent.
• The child is present within the state and has been abandoned or faces a risk of neglect if returned to another state.
• There is not a state that meets any of these criteria or a state that does satisfy one of the criteria has elected not to exercise authority to make a custody decision.
What may be immediately apparent is that multiple states simultaneously may have a basis for jurisdiction under the above criteria. Once a custody proceeding has been initiated in a state with a basis for jurisdiction under the UCCJA, a parent cannot pursue a separate custody case in another state that would have jurisdiction under the UCCJA unless the court with an already pending proceeding declines to hear the case and to allow the court in the new state to determine custody and parenting plan orders.
Parents also cannot move a child to another state without the permission of the other parent for the purposes of trying to establish significant connections or home state status. A parent who unilaterally relocates the child to another state to deprive the other parent of access to the child and/or manipulate child custody proceedings may be exposed to charges of parental kidnapping.
The above information is designed solely to illustrate general principles of law, and does not constitute a specific legal opinion on individual cases. We suggest that you contact experienced legal counsel for a specific opinion tailored to your individual circumstances.
Because multiple states may meet the standards for exercising jurisdiction under the UCCJA, it is important to seek prompt legal advice so that the first custody proceeding is in your state, since that court will continue to have custody unless it elects to cede jurisdiction to a different state. If you have questions about interstate parenting plans and child custody, Jay Goodman & Associates offers a free consultation in our centrally located offices in Santa Fe and Albuquerque so that we can discuss your situation and answer your questions. Call New Mexico Child Custody Attorneys today to schedule your free consultation at (505) 989-8117 to learn about your rights and options.