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What if my child lives in another state?

Most states have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Nevertheless, different state courts may have different ways of interpreting the act. As such, if you are involved in a child custody dispute with a spouse who is living in another state, it is important to determine which state will have jurisdiction over the matter, and then find a family law attorney who is familiar with that state's interpretation of the law.

Here are factors that courts consider when establishing whether a state has the jurisdiction to decide your child custody dispute. One or more of the following factors will usually need to be present:

-- Child's home state: The state that has jurisdiction over the child custody concern should be the home state of the child for a period of no less than six months before the legal action was filed. If the child hasn't lived there for at least six months, then the action should be filed in the previous state.

-- Connections with people: Jurisdiction may also be awarded to the state where the child has the most family and community connections. Connections might include teachers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, doctors, friends and sports coaches.

-- In a state for the child's safety: Sometimes children need to be removed from a state to protect them from neglect, abuse or abandonment. In this case, the state where the child was taken may have jurisdiction to decide a custody case.

-- When none of the above factors are present, or when a state that meets the above qualifications declines to assert jurisdiction, then the state where the suit was filed is more likely to assert its jurisdiction over the matter.

Maryland residents who are navigating interstate child custody lawsuits may want to discuss their situations with an experienced lawyer. It is wise to evaluate jurisdiction regarding your custody matter to fully evaluate your parental rights and legal obligations.

Source: FindLaw, "Interstate Custody Arrangements," accessed Feb. 03, 2017

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