Divorced spouses frequently move around after a divorce. This may be due to a work transfer, to take a new, better position, or to make a fresh start in a new city. Since 2010, Texas has experienced a large increase of inbound migration from other states. Many of these new residents are single parents who left the other parent—and possibly their children—to pursue work opportunities.
So if the parents live in different states, which laws apply to the child custody case—Texas, or the state where the other parent lives?
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
This federal law covers child custody issues when the parents live in two different states. The UCCJEA is a uniform law drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1997, and has been adopted by every state and the District of Columbia, except Massachusetts. The US Virgin Islands and Guam have adopted the UCCJEA; Puerto Rico has not.
The UCCJEA has rules that can help clarify the child’s home state jurisdiction to determine issues on physical custody, legal custody and visitations.
Texas must have jurisdiction over your child before it can issue orders in your case. Two subsections, C and D, cover jurisdiction and determining the child’s “home state,” and enforcement.
The Texas Family Code Chapter 152.102(3) incorporates the UCCJEA for the state.
Determining Home Jurisdiction
The State of Texas will have jurisdiction over a child custody determination if:
- The child’s home state is Texas. That is, he or she lived in Texas with a parent or someone acting as a parent (i.e., grandparent or other relative) continuously for at least six months prior to the filing of the custody case. If the child is less than six months old, he or she would be living in the state since birth.
- The child has moved out of Texas, but lived in the state for six months immediately prior to the filing of the custody case. The parent or person acting as a parent is still living in Texas. 4
Should neither of these conditions apply, Texas can still make a determination if no other state has made one. Since this is a complex area of law, a Fort Worth family law attorney can help you navigate your case.
The court should be notified that the UCCJEA applies in this case with a note in your petition (or an affidavit attached) that provides your child’s current address as well as those for the last five years, and the names and current addresses of the people your child has lived with during the last five years.
Out-Of-State Court Orders
Should you need to modify or enforce a court order from another state, Texas can as long as the state has jurisdiction. Under the UCCJEA, Texas must recognize and enforce a child custody order from another state, and use any remedy available under state law.
Registering your court order in Texas can help with enforcement. You’ll need to send to the appropriate Texas court:
- A letter or other document detailing your request for registration
- Two copies of the out-of-state order you want registered. One of those must be a certified copy.
- A statement indicating that, to the best of your knowledge, the order has not been modified (under penalty of perjury)
- Your name and address, and the name and address of the party listed in your out-of-state order
If Your Child Is In Danger
Texas can implement temporary emergency jurisdiction regardless of jurisdiction if you believe your child to be endangered, under these circumstances:
- The child is currently in Texas, and has been abandoned
- There is a threat of abuse or mistreatment
Additional information is available at the Texas Law Help website.
Need Help With A Child Custody Case?
A spouse can’t just move away and take your children out of state. If he or she has, you do have legal recourse.
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced Fort Worth family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County who are dealing with child custody issues. As a divorcee, Wendy understands the difficulties involved and will work to resolve your case fairly, and will protect your interests and those of your children.