When parents cannot agree on child custody arrangements for their children, they will turn to the courts to make a determination. These cases can become complex and highly contested amongst the parties and their attorneys. Imagine then, when courts from multiple states are involved. Most lawyers are licensed to practice law in their own state and are familiar with their own state laws and courts. Further, other states have their own state laws and local rules that may look completely foreign. In order to resolve interstate custody conflicts, states recognize and follow the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)
In order for any court in this country to hear a case, it must have jurisdiction. This is Latin for “law speak”, or to speak the law. This is one of the first questions that a court must answer in a lawsuit, as it is a vitally important one. This is because if a court hears a case, but lacks jurisdiction over the people or the subject matter of the case, then any order entered by the court is void. It thereby becomes an enormous waste of everyone’s time and money, and also produces a completely unenforceable court order.
The UCCJEA is a national act that has been adopted by every state in the country with the purpose of creating a uniform set of laws regarding jurisdiction over child custody proceeding and enforcement of custody orders entered in other states. North Carolina has adopted the UCCJEA, which has been codified as General Statute 50A.
Initial Custody Determination
When there is a dispute between parties as to what state a Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship can be filed, the critical question is this: which state is the child’s “home” state? A child’s home state is where the child has resided for six consecutive months prior to the filing of the lawsuit. For children younger than six months of age, the state with jurisdiction is where the child was born.
Modification of an Existing Order
In a situation where there is an existing custody order in a different state, a North Carolina court can only modify this order if the following requirements are met: (1) the child must have resided in North Carolina for six consecutive months prior to the filing of the motion to modify the order; and (2) that the original state with continuing jurisdiction relinquishes jurisdiction after finding that it no longer has jurisdiction, is not a convenient forum for the case, or the necessary parties no longer live in that state.
New Direction Family Law
Custody disputes that invoke the UCCJEA require knowledge and compliance with the law. Contact New Direction Family Law if you need help. We have over than twenty years of legal experience helping clients in all aspects of family law, including child custody determinations. We will help you navigate the North Carolina courts to help resolve your interstate dispute. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or visit our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law