Dec 02

Determining Where to File Your Child Custody Case

Written by: Megan Dell

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UCCJEADetermining where to file your child custody case can be complicated. Since the 1960s, Family Courts have tried to prevent people from moving across state lines to choose where their child custody case is litigated.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (often referred to as the “UCCJEA”) is a multi-state compact developed in 1997. Most of its provisions have been adopted by 49 states, but each state’s laws may have variations. (Massachusetts has not enacted any version of the UCCJEA.)

South Carolina has codified the UCCJEA atĀ S.C. Code Ann. Section 63-15-300, et. seq.

Why does the UCCJEA matter?

The UCCJEA provides that only child’s “home state” may issue an order affecting custody or visitation of that child.

  • If there has never been an order addressing custody or visitation of a child, then the “home state” is where the child has resided for the 6 months immediately preceding the filing of the case or, if a child is younger than 6 months in age, then the home state is where the child has resided since birth.
  • If there has been an order addressing custody or visitation of a child, then the state that issued that order continues to be the home state of the child for any subsequent caseĀ unless that state releases jurisdiction.

The UCCJEA also binds all parties to the case to the resulting order, even if they relocate to another state.

Home State Designation Cannot Be Waived

In Family Court cases, procedural issues are often resolved by agreement, but it is not possible for parents to simply agree to bring a custody case outside of a child’s home state. Doing so can result in any resulting Order being void and — therefore — unenforceable.

How does the home state release jurisdiction to another state?

In South Carolina Family Court, S.C. Code Ann. Section 63-15-312 provides that resolving the issue of jurisdiction must be handled on an expedited basis.

To ask the home state to release jurisdiction, a party can file a motion asking judges from the two states to confer and decide which state is more appropriate for litigating child custody as provided by S.C. Code Ann. Section 63-15-318.

determining where to file your child custody case

If your child custody case involves anyone relocating between states, then your lawyer must consider the UCCJEA when determining where to file. Our attorneys are experienced with UCCJEA cases, and you can schedule a consultation online right now.