For a parent to seek a modification of child custody orders, North Carolina law requires a showing of “changed circumstances by either party or anyone interested.” It is very common for courts to revisit child custody orders over time. The jobs, relationships, and living arrangements of the parents change over time, the children get older and have different needs and activities, and life keeps flowing.
Modifications can get tricky, however, when it comes to custody orders from other states. This is because of a concept known as “jurisdiction.” Latin for “to speak the law”, jurisdiction refers to the ability of a court to consider a case and to issue an enforceable order. When it comes to child custody orders, the court that originally issued the child custody order retains sole jurisdiction (referred to as “exclusive, continuing jurisdiction”) over the child custody matter.
So if an Indiana family court originally issued an order of child custody, it retains the sole authority to consider the case, unless certain criteria are met and specific legal procedures are followed.
The UCCJEA Governs Jurisdiction Across State Lines
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, or UCCJEA, is an Act that provides a consistent and clear set of rules that dictate how courts should proceed with child custody cases when multiple states are implicated. The UCCJEA has been adopted by 49 states in the Country and sets forth where an initial child custody case can be filed, which court has jurisdiction over a child custody case, which court can modify a child custody case, and the authority of courts to enter emergency orders for the protection of children regardless of continuing jurisdiction.
When it comes to modifying child custody orders, the North Carolina General Statutes, which codify and comply with the UCCJEA, states that a North Carolina court is prohibited from modifying a child custody order of another state unless the North Carolina court has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination.
To for North Carolina to make this initial custody determination, one of the following conditions must exist:
- This state is the “home state” of the child on the day the suit is filed. The child must have resided in the state for six months to establish a home state;
- This state must have been home state of the child within six months before suit was filed and the child is absent from North Carolina but a parent continues to live here; or
- A court of another state does not have jurisdiction to make an initial determination, or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this State is the more appropriate forum, and either a party has a “significant connection with this State” or “[s]ubstantial evidence is available in this State concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships.”
In addition to having jurisdiction to make the initial custody determination, one of the following determinations must be met:
- “The court of the other state determines it no longer has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction” “ or that a court of this State would be a more convenient forum”; or
- “A court of this State or a court of the other state determines that the child, the child’s parents, and any person acting as a parent do not presently reside in the other state.”
Contact New Direction Family Law
The laws regarding child custody orders are complex and fraught with peril, especially if multiple states are involved. The last thing you want is to spend the time and money to get an order that is later deemed invalid and unenforceable. If you want to get things right the first time, call us. New Direction Family Law is a family law firm that provides relevant legal advice with an attention to detail. Our attorneys have ten years of combined legal experience and want to serve you. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or visit us at our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law