While any child custody conflict can be legally and logistically complicated, conflicts that involve parents who live in different states can be especially complex. Parents in Maryland will be interested to know that even though judges are supposed to enforce valid decrees issued by other states, this often didn’t happen in the past. Judges would issue new orders that, at times, conflicted with existing orders from another state. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, or UCCJA, was enacted to solve that problem.
All but two states, Massachusetts and Vermont, have adopted the UCCJA, which limits what state can issue a decision about a child custody arrangement. In order to rule on a child custody arrangement, a state must be the child’s home state, the child must have significant connections in the state, or the child must be in the state for safety reasons. If a state cannot meet any of those standards, then it cannot make a ruling regarding child custody. Additionally, if no other state meets any of those three requirements, then a state may issue a ruling.
The UCCJA also prohibits a parent from wrongfully removing or detaining a child in order to make a particular state the child’s home state. Before the UCCJA was passed, a parent could kidnap a child and petition for custody without informing the court of the true situation. The UCCJA dictates that only one state may issue orders pertaining to child custody. Even if two states can pass one of the three tests listed above, once one state has ruled, the other cannot override that decision.
Parents who are dealing with interstate custody and visitation issues may benefit from the help of a lawyer experienced in dealing with complicated family law cases. A lawyer may be able to help navigate all of the complex legal issues involved and work to ensure the best possible outcome for everyone.