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October 25, 2021

How to Change Jurisdiction for Child Custody

Child custody cases can be some of the most contentious and challenging issues related to a divorce. In family law and divorce cases involving children, Utah courts must decide whether they have jurisdiction to decide on the child custody matter before them. Jurisdiction is the legal authority of a court to decide on a particular child custody case. Typically jurisdiction is in the child’s home state or in any state where the child has resided for six months before the parent files the child custody action. In most family law cases, including in child custody matters, jurisdiction is not a significant issue. Most of the time, both parents and all of the children live in the same state.

However, in some circumstances, a court in another state will have jurisdiction over the child custody or visitation matter. This is because one of the parents lives out of state or is pursuing an out-of-state divorce. When a parent decides to move or is living in another state, he or she may need to change jurisdiction for the child custody matter. We will discuss how to change jurisdiction for a child custody matter and Utah’s laws regarding family court jurisdiction below.



The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

In most states, child custody jurisdiction is governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Most states will adopt the UCCJEA or some version of it to become their child custody law. Utah is one of the many states that have adopted the UCCJEA as the framework for their child custody laws. In this article, we will discuss Utah’s UCCJEA child custody laws.


Typically the Home State Has Jurisdiction Over Child Custody Matters

The home state is where the child has lived with a parent for six months before the child custody matter begins. If parents are seeking a divorce, the home state is where the child has lived for six months before a parent files a divorce petition with a Utah court. When children are younger than six months, the state where the child has resided since birth with a parent is considered the state with jurisdiction over the child custody matter. If a child moves to a different state with one parent, and the other parent remains, the original state continues to have jurisdiction over the child for six months. 

These are the basic rules, but the jurisdiction question can become more complex under different circumstances. Suppose both parents decide to move to a different state outside of Utah at the same time. In this situation, the court will examine multiple factors to determine whether Utah has custody over the child custody matter.


Continuing Jurisdiction

Once a court has made a child custody decision, that court will have exclusive continuing jurisdiction over custody. This can become problematic if the parents need to modify a custody agreement, especially if they’ve moved out of state since the last court order. Unless they change the jurisdiction, they will need to come to the court with jurisdiction to modify their child custody order. 

For example, suppose parents get divorced in Utah, and the court issues a child custody agreement as part of the divorce settlement. The mom decides to move to Arizona, and the father decides to move to New Mexico. Unless the parents petition the court to change jurisdiction, they will have to travel back to Utah if they would like to seek a modification to their child custody arrangement.


How to Change Jurisdiction in a Utah Child Custody Case

It is possible to ask the court to change jurisdiction over a child custody matter. There are many situations in which parents should change the jurisdiction to transfer child custody to another state. For example, if both parents have left the state, it will become infeasible to continue traveling back to that state every time they need to petition the court regarding their child custody. Using a court closer to them will be much more convenient.

In Utah, the process to change jurisdiction to a different Court usually begins with registering the original child custody order with the court. Utah will acknowledge the existence of this order when this happens. Doing so does not give  Utah jurisdiction over the child custody matter, however. There are different avenues a parent will need to use to have the jurisdiction change to a Utah court.

For example, if a Utah court can ascertain that neither parent lives in the original state and that the child is now living in Utah, Utah may take jurisdiction of the child custody case. A Utah court will need the cooperation of the original court. For example, if the original court that granted the child custody orders were located in California, the Utah judge overseeing the request to change jurisdiction in Utah will need to reach out to the California court and cooperate. The process for changing jurisdiction in a child custody matter can be complicated even for experienced attorneys and judges. It is difficult to explain all of the different answers and procedures because they are so dependent on the unique facts of each family’s case.


Contact a Skilled Utah Child Custody Attorney

Do you need to request a change in the jurisdiction for your child custody matter? Have you, your child, or your co-parent moved out of state? If so, it is wise to discuss your case with an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. The Salt Lake City child custody lawyers at Read Law have extensive experience with Utah’s child custody laws. We will carefully evaluate your unique situation and explain how Utah’s child custody laws apply in your case. We can also help you navigate the process of registering your child custody order and petitioning for a change in jurisdiction. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation. 

Child custody cases can be some of the most contentious and challenging issues related to a divorce. In family law


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