How Relocation Can Affect Child Custody
In some circumstances, a parent who has custody of a child in another state may move with that child to Arizona. Depending on how long the parent and child care in the state, Arizona becomes the home state for purposes of child custody jurisdiction. This relocation is important, especially if the question of modifying a child custody order comes into play. Which state governs when it comes to determining custody?
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
Interstate custody issues are governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Under this Act, the court that made the first child custody order has exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over that child’s issues.
That home state maintains jurisdiction if it was that child’s home state within six months before the most recent action was filed, and at least one of the parents still lives in that state.
If no state qualifies under that definition, another state can have home jurisdiction over the child so long as the child and at least one parent has what is considered a “significant connection” with that state.
This connection means the child has more than just physical presence in the state, but evidence must exist to show that the child’s care, protection, training, and relationship with others are in the state.
Modifying Custody Orders Under the UCCJEA
The UCCJEA provides mechanisms by which parents can modify a first custody order if one parent and child relocates.
First custody orders remain intact and in the original court’s jurisdiction unless one of the two circumstances occur:
These determinations are highly fact-specific and require an order from the original court that made the first custody order before the new state can proceed. This can also be done by filing a request to the original court to give up its jurisdiction by issuing an order that the state no longer has “substantial connections” to the child.”
Of course, emergencies do exist, and the UCCJEA does allow for these types of situations, such as when the parent or child is in danger and must relocate.
However, if an emergency order is requested and granted, the order will only be temporary to allow the parent who is in danger to keep custody of the child only until they can return to the first court that determined custody to modify the original order.
Besides, if an emergency order is issued, the court making that order must notify the other court immediately if it does issue a temporary order modifying custody.
An Inconvenient Forum
Even if an Arizona court has the jurisdiction to rule on a child custody matter, it still may decline to do so. If the court rules that it is an inconvenient forum for the matter, determining that a court in another state is a more appropriate forum, the Arizona court can refuse the hear the case.
However, before making this decision, parties are allowed to present evidence regarding how long the child has lived in Arizona, whether domestic violence is a factor, which state could best protect the parties and child, the distance between the two states, the financial circumstances of the parties involved, and whether one court is more familiar with the facts and issues in the case.
If the Arizona court rules that it is an inconvenient forum, it is stayed and directed back to the other state.
Enforcement of Child Custody Orders
Under the UCCJEA, Arizona courts are bound to enforce the child custody orders issued by other states and registered in Arizona.
To register a custody order in Arizona, the parent needs to bring a certified petition seeking enforcement of the order, attaching a certified copy of the original custody determination and notice of registration.
If a parent has taken a child to Arizona in violation of another state’s order, the parent can also ask the court to issue a warrant to take physical custody of the child if it is believed that he or she is in danger of serious physical harm or if she may be taken out of the state, as well. If a warrant is issued, the enforcement petition must be heard in court the following day.
Many of these decisions are fact-specific, and the client must be working with a family law attorney when filing for dissolution of marriage. If you need a strong advocate in your corner, it is important you contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. Contact us at (480) 300-6012.