Interstate Child Custody: How the Texas UCCJEA helps resolve child custody disputes where the child and at least one parent live in different states.
Interstate child custody cases usually happen when the parents of a child live in different states. The question is how do courts resolve disputes over which parent the child will live with and how and when visitation with the other parent will take place. Most states have adopted uniform laws to help sort out these disputes. Texas has adopted the UCCJEA - the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act found in Family Code sec.152.001.
The Act provides that Texas courts have initial jurisdiction to determine a child's custody if:
(1) Texas is the "home" state of the child when the child custody case is filed or has been within six months before the action is filed and at least one parent continues to live in Texas.
(2) Another court does not already have jurisdiction (jurisdiction is the legal right to make orders concerning the custody dispute), or had declined to exercise it's jurisdiction and
(a) there is a significant connection to Texas between the child and at least one parent; and, (b) there is substantial evidence in Texas concerning those factors which bear upon the custody determination such as, the child's care, training, protection and personal relationships.
If a court in another state has already made a determination regarding custody which complies with the above portion of the Texas law then the court of that state would have exclusive and continuing jurisdiction and Texas would decline to make orders regarding the child.
In the event its hard to figure out which state should be making and enforcing orders about the custody of a child whose parents are in different states the Texas UCCJEA provides authorization for the courts to communicate with each other in an effort to determine which court should have the power to make, modify and enforce the child custody orders.
As an example, let's say your child is taken out of Texas without your consent by the other parent who claims he or she has the "right" to do that by virtue of the fact that they are the parent of the child. What do you do? Well fortunately under the UCCJEA even though the child has been taken to another state, Texas courts still have jurisdiction to make the initial child custody orders because Texas is still the "home" state of the child because the home state is the state where the child lived within six months before the commencement of any child custody proceeding and you as the other parent still live in the state. A Texas court can grant you custody and then compel the other parent to bring the child back to the state of Texas.
Or, perhaps you've moved to Texas with a child or children and there are no prior orders regarding the children. If there is another parent in another state, that parent can go to a court in his or her state and get order compelling the child or children to return to the "home" state which can make orders regarding the child. If, however, you have been living in Texas for six months and no orders exist in another state, you may go to a Texas court and get a child custody order here.