Who Has Jurisdiction in Child Custody Matters?

With people on the move like never before, you and your family may have recently moved to or from Texas. On top of all the typical ways that families need to adjust after a big move, you all may have some concerns about how to address issues related to child custody for your family. Specifically, it is important to be aware of when a Texas court has jurisdiction over a case involving your child.

Jurisdiction is the right to hear and decide a case that is filed in a particular court. When we talk about jurisdiction, we are referencing both the ability and right to hear and decide cases based on the parties involved in the case as well as the subject matter. For families who have resided only in Texas then this is a simple question to answer. However, if you and your family have resided in multiple states then the question becomes more complicated. In situations like this, we would turn to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act to help figure out what state is the appropriate one for you to file a child custody case in.

Explaining the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act applies to families like yours regarding child custody cases that relate to more than a single state. The state of Texas has its own child custody laws just as every state in the country does. These laws help to determine how courts make decisions every day regarding child custody cases. Where this gets complicated is when you have a situation where your child has lived in multiple states or where you live in Texas and your co-parent lives in another state.

In situations like this, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act helps to cut through the uncertainty regarding jurisdiction. This series of laws will provide your family with guidelines on how to determine which court in which state has jurisdiction over the child custody matters related to your family. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act applies to situations where there is an issue involving custody of your child, either legal or physical in addition to visitation. These are the hallmark issues of a child custody case.

In terms of dividing up the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, we need to be aware of two sections that relate primarily to the topic that we are discussing in today’s blog post. The first section relates to jurisdiction and which state will be able to make orders regarding your child custody case. The other section that is critical for our discussion today involves the enforcement of a previously issued child custody order. For families like yours, the ability to enforce a child custody order can be extremely important. Without the ability to enforce a child custody order the language contained in that order is not worth the paper that it is printed on.

If you have any questions about what state is the appropriate location to file, the child custody case related to your child then you should pause and consult with one of the experienced family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. One of our attorneys can sit down with you for a free-of-charge consultation to look over the facts of your case and provide you with information about jurisdiction within the state of Texas. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act applies in all U.S. states besides Massachusetts. As a result, there is quite a bit that can be at stake for a family like yours regarding this series of laws.

When does the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act apply to my family?

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act should be used in your circumstances to help you and your family decide whether Texas has jurisdiction over your case when you, your co-parent, or your child lives outside of Texas. The problem with filing a child custody case in Texas when this state does not have jurisdiction over your case is that time, money, and effort can be wasted since a court in this state may not be able to issue valid orders. Your Co-parent could appeal the decisions of a Texas court and have your orders invalidated.

Before deciding to file a child custody case in Texas you should seek out information from trustworthy family law attorneys in Texas. This is the critical stage of a case where you can begin to develop a strong base of knowledge that will guide you throughout your case. The more you can learn at the beginning of a case before the lawsuit is even filed the better off you and your family will be. Do not go into a family law case if the details will sort themselves out over time or if you and your family will be able to figure things out on the fly. This is a recipe for a major disaster.

Keep in mind that we all have limited resources from which we can choose to spend money on different items in our lives. Even if you believe that someone else will be able to assist you in paying for your child custody case it is unrealistic to think that you will have an unlimited amount of money to spend on your case. As a result, you need to be careful with how you spend money and should be very confident that you are moving forward with your child custody case in the right location. Choosing to file a child custody case in Texas or any other state before you are sure it is the right decision from a jurisdiction standpoint can set your case back a great deal and can waste resources that could be better spent elsewhere.

Are there jurisdiction issues that the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act does not apply?

There are issues related to jurisdiction which it could impact your children that the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act does not apply to. Legal custody, physical custody, and visitation issues are the only child custody topics that are covered by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Included in this are orders there are classified as final orders, temporary orders, or modification cases.

When we talk about legal custody, what we are discussing is conservatorship. Specifically, legal custody relates to which parent, you, or your co-parent, can make decisions for your child on a primary basis. In Texas, this is known as a managing conservatorship. As a result of a child custody case, it is very likely that you and your co-parent white both have rights and duties regarding your child. However, only one of you will be the managing conservator of your child. This puts that parent in the driver’s seat as far as making important decisions for your child including determining the primary residence of him or her.

On the other hand, physical custody of your child refers to the ability to physically care for your child and supervise him or her. Legal custody is more of a theoretical discussion whereas physical custody considers your ability to be present with your child and care for his or her needs. For most parents, this is a primary consideration in a family lowercase. Physical custody has a great deal of emotion tied up in it and, understandably, parents want to ensure that the needs of their children are met regarding daily care.

Finally, visitation means possession and access two your child. When a parent has visitation rights to a child in Texas that means that he or she is not the primary conservator of the child. Rather, this parent would have the ability in right under a family court order to have possession and access to a child because of a court order. A visitation schedule is frequently laid out in a possession schedule. The most common possession schedule, for example, in Texas is known as a standard possession order. You may be familiar with this possession schedule and its hallmark first; 3rd and 5th weekend of the month visitation periods.

How does the uniform child custody jurisdiction enforcement act help courts determine whether Texas has jurisdiction over an initial child custody case?

Sometimes the most difficult part of this entire discussion on jurisdiction in child custody cases relates to being able to decide on what court is the appropriate site for an initial or original child custody case. Many times, if you know where your original case was filed, a modification of that original court order there’s a lot more straightforward because you would simply go back to the original court. However, if you have not yet filed the case and need to be able to have some guidance on the appropriate venue to file then the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act can help to guide your family to make a good decision as far as where to file a case.

Specifically, a Texas court would have jurisdiction to make an original decision regarding child custody if Texas is the home state of your child. Bear in mind that the home state of your child is not merely a state of mind or a feeling regarding where your child considers being their home state. Rather, Texas would be your child’s home state if he or she lived here with you, your co-parent, or another person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the child custody case was filed.

This means that your child could have Texas as a home state even if it were a grandparent or other family member in Texas who was caring for your child on an extended basis. Remember that the uniform child custody and jurisdiction enforcement act applies to you, your Co-parent as well as your child. For children who are under the age of six months, Texas would be considered the child’s home state if your child has lived in Texas since his or her birth with you, your Co-parent, or a person acting as a parent.

Additionally, Texas could still be the home state of your child even if he or she no longer lives in Texas. This is true if Texas was your child’s home state within six months immediately before the filing of your child custody case and you or your Co-parent have continued to live in Texas. If your child has been moved out of state for any reason but has resided in Texas for six months immediately before the filing of the child custody case, Texas would likely still have jurisdiction over the child custody case.

There still may be some circumstances not covered by the above two components of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. If neither of these situations applies to your family then Texas may still be the appropriate place to file a child custody case if there is no other state which has jurisdiction, either. These types of questions can get complicated, and are best addressed by an experienced family law attorney before deciding one way or the other in terms of determining where to file a child custody case.

How do you inform the court if you believe that the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act applies to your case?

A worthwhile question to ask regarding determining the appropriate court for jurisdiction purposes in your case relates to how you would go about informing the court that there is a question regarding jurisdiction in the applicability of the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act. The most direct way to inform the court of this would be to state certain information in your petition or to attach a document to the petition as an exhibit.

First, you would need to provide the court with your child’s current address as well as the places where your child has lived during the prior five-year period. Additionally, you should provide the court with the names and current addresses of any people with whom your child has lived during that period. Providing this basic information can help a court determine a timeline for your child to better acclimate itself to the question of jurisdiction.

Can Texas modify a child custody order from another state?

This is a question that the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan receive frequently. With so many people moving to Texas over the past several years it is a relevant question to ask. A Texas court can have jurisdiction sufficient to modify a previously issued child custody order from another state. However, for our Texas court to have this jurisdiction to modify the same court would have had to have had jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination. Frequently, this would involve your child residing in Texas and having Texas as a home state for the prior six months immediately before your filing the modification. Or your child could have resided in Texas for the prior six-month period and only recently moved to another state.

Enforcing a previously issued court order from another state in Texas

As we talked about earlier in today’s blog post it is critical for you as a parent to be able to know that a Texas court can enforce a previously issued child custody order. At the end of the day, this is probably the most important function of the court order: to hold you and your Co-parent accountable to one another and your child regarding child custody-related matters. Having a court order that you cannot enforce is a hopeless situation to find yourself in.

A Texas family court must both recognize and enforce a child custody order from another state so long as it was issued in conjunction with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. When enforcing an out-of-state child custody order, a Texas family court judge can use any remedy available under the law in Texas.

With so much at stake in interstate child custody circumstances, you do not want to take any chances with not knowing how the law applies to your case or how your family may be impacted by different sets of laws in different states. It can make a tremendous difference where your family law case is filed in what court has jurisdiction over you, your co-parent, your child, and the child custody case in question.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions regarding the material presented in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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