Interstate Divorce, Child Custody and Visitation

Due to the mobile nature of families, traveling to relocate for work, education and an entire host of other reasons, you often require an attorney to explain and review the laws applying to custody, visitation, property and divorce. Often, a parent may want to modify his or her child custody and visitation rights, but he or she lives in a state other than Texas. Most states, including Texas, have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) to address and regulate interstate child custody. The UCCJEA protects noncustodial parents, for example, whose children have been moved to another state or more than 100 miles away from them. Parents relocating must provide the other parent with at least sixty (60) days notice of the relocation plans. Fortunately, these relocation plans must consist of , ordinarily, the child visitation schedule and responsibility for travel cost payment and reimbursement. Texas courts have UCCJEA jurisdiction over a child custody matter, if Texas is the child’s “home state”. A child’s home state is where the child has lived or been physically present for at least six (6) consecutive or uninterrupted months prior to commencement of the custody proceeding. Obviously, if the child is less than six (6) months old, than UCCJEA jurisdiction will be where the child lived, since birth, with a parent or person acting as a parent. James M. Warner has the experience and background working with both the UCCJEA and UIFSA to represent custodial and non-custodial parents in cases involving interstate custody. Please contact Mr. Warner if you are either a Texas resident or non-resident, who has an interstate custody matter, including obtaining visitation or modifying visitation rights to your child.

Interstate issues and cases are complicated, especially when parties are living in separate states. However, Texas has jurisdiction if the original divorce, child custody and/or paternity matter was adjudicated/decided in Texas, and one or more of the parties still resides or lives in Texas. One of these parties can be the child, even if the child lives in Texas without the parents. To maintain or establish Texas as a domicile for the courts to adjudicate a suit for divorce, both parties must have domiciled in Texas for the past six (6) months; only the petitioner domiciled in Texas for the past six (6) months; or only the respondent domiciled in Texas for the past six (6) months. To establish Texas as a domicile, a person must live in Texas, which means he or she is intending to make Texas a fixed and permanent home. A military service member is domiciled in Texas, when he or she has been stationed at a Texas military installation (or Texas military installations) for six (6) or more months. Also, if a military service member is stationed overseas, but is domiciled in Texas, then Texas is still considered his or her domicile.

Under certain circumstances, Texas may assert “emergency jurisdiction” over a case, even if another state has original jurisdiction. A party seeking to invoke emergency jurisdiction must prove that a bona fide or legitimate emergency exists for a Texas court to assume jurisdiction. These emergencies include the abandonment, neglect and/or abuse of a child. Sometimes, a child is removed from Texas and you want to seek his or her return. Also, a child could be residing in Texas, and you want the child returned to you in another state. You may be able to invoke emergency jurisdiction of a Texas court, if one of the foregoing emergencies exists.

Mr. Warner will be happy to explain all of these jurisdictional matters to you, during your initial consultation with him, because they can be not only complex and fact specific, but contentious, especially when a party wants to elude the jurisdiction of Texas courts, or action must be taken, quickly, due to an emergency or other pressing circumstance.

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