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What you need to understand about multi-state custody agreements

Divorce is hard enough as it is, but when you have to negotiate co-parenting obligations with an ex-spouse and you live in separate states, it can become even more difficult. That happens for a number of reasons, most of which are fairly obvious. Families that live a great distance from one another have communication difficulties, for starters. It can also be difficult to find a co-custody agreement that gives both parents balanced time, especially since schooling and other obligations tend to make a fifty-fifty split custody agreement difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

If you or your ex are considering a move to another state as part of your divorce, these challenges can make coming to an agreement about custody quite difficult. Some of them can be resolved with a diligent parenting plan. For other aspects of cross-state custody, you may have to rely on the courts to decide.

Deciding where to bring up multi-state custody issues

Since only one state can issue a custody decree, the first step is determining which state should have jurisdiction. This is done with a couple criteria:

  • Home state: If your children have lived for six months or longer in their current state, or if they had lived for six months or longer before a recent move out of state by one parent, that state has jurisdiction as the home state.
  • Significant connections: The child should also have significant connections in the form of relationships with peers, community members, and mentors like teachers. This is often used when the home state criteria can not be used.

Once the jurisdiction has been set, the custody process proceeds much like a standard custody hearing and negotiation process, complete with the requirement that the parents work out a detailed parenting plan that meets the state's requirements.

Relocating after a parenting plan is in place

Often, multi-state custody issues arise after a custody agreement has been in place for some time. This happens because people get new jobs or new opportunities, because they need to relocate to be near other extended family members, or for a variety of other reasons. When custody agreements need to be modified to take these circumstances into account, there are typically two routes. If the noncustodial spouse agrees to the custodial spouse moving with the child, then there is typically no issue. If that does not happen, though, then the court may need to revisit the issue of custody to make a final decision.

If you or your ex are planning a move and you are worried about how the change will impact your custody agreement, the best thing you can do is talk to a lawyer. An experienced family law attorney will be able to review the facts of your situation with you and provide advice.

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