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Interstate Child Custody Issues

Does the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Apply to you?

Pingel Family Law is skilled at dealing with multi-state jurisdictional issues 

Kansas and Missouri Child Custody Lawyer

In Kansas and Missouri, it often occurs that parties incorrectly file a law suit on one side of the state line (as they believe the laws or the court’s viewpoint will be favorable to their position) when the case should more appropriately be filed in the other state. There are not many lawyers who are skilled at advocating and litigating cases in both, Kansas and Missouri. Our firm frequently receives referrals from other top family law attorneys in  the area to address UCCJEA multi-jurisdictional issues. Let us fight for you!

In today’s mobile society, it is very common for divorced or separated parents to live in different states (and even more common that people live in different states in the metropolitan Kansas City area). The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act has been adopted by all 50 states and provides guidance about the appropriate state for a child custody case. The goal of the UCCJEA is to ensure that the state where a custody case is filed is the best state for the child to litigate the case. Often a parent will file a case where it is most convenient for him or her to litigate, without considerations of what is in the best interests of the children and the state or location that has the most information about the child’s needs and care. 

The purposes of the UCCJEA are as follows:

  • To avoid jurisdictional conflict between States in matters of child custody and give guidance about where custody cases should be decided in the best interests of the children involved;
  • To discourage the use of the interstate system for continuing controversies over child custody or to “forum shop” by trying to choose a court or a state that a parent believes will be more favorable to his or her position;
  • To deter abductions of children;
  • To avoid re-litigation of custody decisions from one State in another State; and
  • To facilitate enforcement of custody Judgments from other States.

The UCCJEA applies to virtually all custody cases, save for ones involving adoptions and emergency medical treatment for a child. The UCCJEA also applies internationally unless a foreign country’s laws violate a fundamental principle of human rights.

Jurisdictional issues (where are case should be heard) related to custody disputes are prioritized for determination by the Court. Decisions rendered by a Missouri or Kansas court under the UCCJEA are binding on the parties and any other court with a pending case filing. An order issued under the Act and is “conclusive as to all decided issues of law and fact” unless the order is subsequently modified.

Communication and Cooperation Between Courts of Different States

The UCCJEA is unique because it allows courts of different states to communicate with one another to resolve jurisdictional and evidentiary issues, with or without notice to the parties. Courts also have the ability to hold hearings or take evidence to help resolve jurisdictional issues. 

Jurisdiction under the UCCJEA

Under the UCCJEA the courts of different states have a goal of conferring to analyze the “home state” of the child. The home state is the state that has jurisdiction to make a custody determination or order. Under the UCCJEA, the home state is where the child has resided, either with a parent or under third party custody for the preceding six-month period immediately before the child custody case was filed.  Therefore, if a child was removed from a State or country less than six months ago, that State or country will still maintain exclusive jurisdiction to hear the case as long as one party remains living in that jurisdiction. If the child is less than six months of age, the “home state” of the child is the state where the child lived since his or her birth to the present.

Most Appropriate Forum or Jurisdiction

The “home state” of a child is the strongly preferred method to resolve an interstate child custody jurisdictional issue. However, there are a couple of unique reasons why a court in Kansas or Missouri may assume jurisdiction even if a different court has previously issued an initial child custody order. If there has been a previous custody judgment or order and you need to file in a new state, you need a skilled and experienced family law attorney who can help you navigate the process of obtaining a triple affidavit exemplified, certified copy of the judgment(s) issued and file a motion to register the out-of-state judgment as a foreign judgment:

No other jurisdiction is the child’s “home state,” or

The court in the child’s home state declines to exercise jurisdiction because it finds that Kansas or Missouri is a more appropriate forum to litigate the case.

For these scenarios to apply, the parents must have a significant connection to Missouri or Kansas (the “more appropriate forum”) other than mere physical presence, and substantial evidence must be available in Missouri or Kansas concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships.

In a situation where no other state would have jurisdiction, Kansas or Missouri courts may exercise jurisdiction to enter an initial child custody determination. Also, the courts of Kansas or Missouri may exercise emergency child custody jurisdiction under certain circumstances. A Judge may enter temporary emergency orders when needed to protect the safety and well-being and best interests of a child.

Speak with an Interstate Child Custody Attorney in Kansas or Missouri today. Let our team at Pingel Family Law help simplify this complicated situation. Call our office today (816) 208-8130!

  • “I have known Attorney Pingel for more than fifteen (15) years. Mandee is a lawyer I consider a respected colleague. She has a reputation for being intelligent, knowledgeable about the law, well-prepared and kind.”

    - A Lawyer in Liberty, Missouri
  • “First and foremost, I have to say Thank You again to Mandee, Tsion and Grace for everything they do, not just for me, but for all their clients.”

    - Joe L.
  • “I absolutely loved working with this attorney’s office.”

    - Emily S.
  • “We worked with Mandee Pingel to represent my wife in a child custody case. Mandee and her team were amazing to work with. She and Tsion communicated with us regularly. This helped us tremendously.”

    - Zac D.
  • “I met with 4 different attorneys before scheduling a consultation with Mandee. During our engagement, Mandee was very thorough and to the point and had no problem calling it how it is, which included appropriately correcting others at times.”

    - Jason G.
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