Last week, we discussed some of the unique challenges that affect military members who are involved in a child custody matter. One of those challenges is that military members don't usually stay in the same location for longer than a couple of years. As you can imagine, that makes child custody agreements difficult to uphold. In the United States, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act provides some protections for members of the military and others who are facing interstate child custody matters.
The UCCJEA provides a fairly consistent series of child custody decrees. It can help in instances of parental kidnapping because the act makes it difficult for that parent to seek a child custody order in another jurisdiction. The act provides very strict criteria concerning the jurisdiction of courts in child custody matters. Those criteria have a preferential order, so if the first tier is applicable, the remaining tiers don't matter.
The top tier for jurisdiction is the child's home state. The child's home state always has jurisdictional preference over all other states. In order for a state to be classified as a home state, the child has to have lived there or the child's legal residence has to have been there for at least the last 6 months.
The second tier is that the child has significant connections to the state. This includes doctors, teacher, family members and similar people.
The third tier is if the child was moved to the state for safety reasons. The fourth tier is if no state can meet the three prior tiers.
Interstate child custody cases can prove challenging. For that reason, members of the military should work to understand how moving to a new duty station might affect the child custody case.
Source: FindLaw, "Interstate Custody Arrangements," accessed April. 03, 2015