What if my ex-spouse moves to a new state with the children?
If your ex-spouse has plans to move to a different state with your children, you might be curious about the move’s effect on your current custody arrangement. You might worry that your ex-spouse will be able to take the case to a court in their new state and get a new ruling taking joint custody or visitation rights away from you. If so, you can rest assured that there are laws in place to prevent this.
Modifying and enforcing child custody awards
Nearly every state in the United States has adopted a statute called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. This statute allows the state that originally established a custody award to maintain jurisdiction over the case under certain circumstances – even if the children move out of the state.
When one state has jurisdiction over a child custody case, the statute binds other states to enforce the original state’s award. This means that your custody arrangement will not change simply because your ex-spouse takes the kids to a different state.
In order for the child’s old state to maintain jurisdiction, the child has to maintain a connection with the state. If the child and both parents leave the old state, and the child no longer has connections to that state, then the child’s new home state can gain jurisdiction to modify the custody order.
Let’s say a court in California established your original custody arrangement. If you still live in California, and your ex-spouse takes the kids to Oregon – but the kids still come to California to visit you – then Oregon must enforce the California court’s custody award.
In that situation, only the California court would be able to modify the award later on, unless you move to Oregon as well.
Child custody issues can be the greatest source of tension and conflict between ex-spouses. Being knowledgeable about how the law protects your parental rights can spare you a lot of worry and heartache.