Interstate Child Custody

For INTERSTATE CHILD CUSTODY cases, California, like most other states, has adopted its own version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). California courts will review each interstate case on an individual basis.

First, a court must establish jurisdiction over the child custody issue. Under the UCCJEA, a state court has exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over a child custody matter, if the state is the child’s “home state,” defined as the state in which the child has lived with a parent for at least 6 consecutive months before the legal action is initiated. For children 6 months or younger, the home state is usually the state in which s/he was born.

If the child has not lived in any state for at least six months, then jurisdiction is established when a state has: (1) “significant connections” with the child and at least one parent; and (2) there is “substantial evidence concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships” in that state. It is possible that more than one state meets this criterion. In such situations, the courts of those states must communicate with one another to determine which state has the strongest connections to the child.

If a child is in need of immediate protection, a state that does not have jurisdiction over the child may enter a temporary emergency order. If, however, the court determines that there is an existing order from another state that does have proper jurisdiction, then the emergency court must allow a reasonable time for the parties to return to such state to argue the issues. Absent a previous child custody order from a “home state” court, the emergency court’s order remains in effect.

Once a court establishes jurisdiction over child custody issues under the UCCJEA, the court’s exclusive jurisdiction continues unless either of the following occur:

  1. The court determines that neither the child, the child’s parents, nor any person acting as a parent has a significant connection with the state and that substantial evidence is no longer available in the state concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships; or
  2. That court or a court of another state determines that the child, the child’s parents, or any person acting as a parent no longer reside(s) in the state that initially made the child custody order.