If you are a parent who is divorced from or was never married to the other parent of your child, you might have a custody agreement with that parent. If both parents and the child live in Texas and have done so for at least six months, in most cases, it is the state of Texas that makes the determination about the child’s custody. This can get more complicated if multiple states are involved, but generally, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act governs what state court decides this.
The only states that do not fall under the UCCJA are Vermont and Massachusetts. In every other state, there is an order of preference about which state determines child custody. Once a determination is made by the appropriate state court, it must be followed regardless of the state that the parents are in.
Jurisdiction and order of preference
Ideally, the child has resided in a state for at least six months with one parent. In this case, that is usually considered to be the child’s home state, and this is the state that is supposed to make the child custody decision. Just after this comes a state where the child has significant ties, including with relatives, friends and people in the community, such as teachers and doctors. In third place is a state the child has been taken to for their own safety, such as in an abusive situation. If multiple jurisdictions meet these conditions, it may come down to the court that issues the first decision.
Ultimately, the aim of these laws is to make a decision that is in the best interests of the child. Ideally, parents should try to work to this end as well instead of competing to “win” in a child custody dispute although this is not always possible. Furthermore, the relocation of one parent to another state can cause issues around child custody even when the co-parenting relationship is otherwise a good one. Parents dealing with interstate child custody issues may want to consult an attorney.