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We live in an increasingly mobile society -- and that doesn't change just because a couple gets divorced.

One member of the former couple may need to follow a career to another state. Perhaps the other member of the couple wants to return to his or her home state in order to take advantage of the family support structure waiting there.

That can easily complicate custody issues -- especially if one spouse wants to make things intentionally difficult for the other.

If you and your ex have children together, here are some key issues you should understand about interstate custody:

  • You and your ex have to o bey the original custody order regarding permission to even leave the state with the children.
  • Taking the children out of the state and relocating without the court's permission and in violation of the original custody order can be considered child abduction.
  • If you or your ex take the children to another state and try to appeal to that state's family court to take control of the custody case, that effort will likely fail. All but two states (Vermont and Massachusetts) have agreed to a joint statute that sets the standards the states use to decide which family court has jurisdiction.
  • The parent who attempts that kind of end-run around one state's custody ruling can expect to see his or her custody sharply curtailed in the future. He or she may lose all but supervised visitation, even if he or she previously had primary physical custody.
  • It's also possible that he or she may face criminal charges, like kidnapping.
  • Sometimes, two states will both meet the same criteria for jurisdiction, which would allow either to take control of a case. For example, if the parents led a fairly nomadic existence and traveled a lot, the child might not really have a "home state." However, if the child has numerous relatives in both Pennsylvania and Ohio, that means either state could claim that the child has "significant ties" there. In a situation like that, the court that issues a determination first will become the court with jurisdiction.

When it comes to child custody, don't take guesses about the law. Get advice before you act so that you can save yourself from criminal charges and a loss of physical custody or visitation rights in the future.

Source: FindLaw, "Interstate Custody Arrangements," accessed Dec. 08, 2017

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