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If a divorce parent moves, which state handles child custody?

When keeping the mantra of the "best interest of the child" in mind while making a decision on child custody arrangements, state courts consider many factors. But what happens when one parent moves to another state; who handles the arrangement proceedings? To help address this question, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act was created to provide standard rules that help address common child custody issues regarding jurisdiction. This statute is recognized in all states throughout the U.S. including the District of Columbia, with the exception of Massachusetts and Vermont.

Essentially the child's home state is the state where the child has spent at least the last six months, or the state where the child has significant relationships and ties, including but not limited to teachers, school, doctors, family members, grandparents and friends. The exception to this is when a parent moves a child to a new state to protect the child from potential neglect, abandonment or abuse.

How is this applicable to child custody arrangements? If during the process of a divorce one parent moves to another state and is seeking custody of the child in the new state, that parent must prove that the child's best interest, such as protection from an violent or abusive father, for example, is the reason for the child's new state of residence. If that cannot be proven, the child's home state will be based on the criteria mentioned above.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act also helps deal with parents who kidnap their child and move to another state. This statute sets guidelines as to which state handles the child custody arrangements, simplifying potential issues between states. Divorced parents dealing with custody issues should understand their rights and options. This could help ensure appropriate action is taken and the needs and interests of the child are met.

Source:, "Interstate Custody Arrangements", Accessed April 14, 2015

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