Out of State Child Relocation and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)
In today’s hectic pace, moving to another state for business, family demands, or pleasure is a very common occurrence. But what about the family that is separated by divorce or separation and share custody of their children? What happens to this family situation when Mom or Dad decides to take another job or wants to move to another state and take the children to or from the other? A Child Custody Relocation Case?
Sadly this happens frequently. Most Texas attorneys employ a geographic restriction in divorce decrees for couples who have children. These restrictions dictate that the Child and Custodial Parent must live within a school district, County of Domicile, or consecutive contingent counties near the non-custodial parent. But what happens if this restriction clause is not contained in the divorce decree or if Dad/Mom were never married?
Forty Nine States, including Texas have adopted the UNIFORM CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION AND ENFORCEMENT ACT (UCCJEA) drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1997. The UCCJEA is a very helpful law since all states but one participate in the determination of the ”HOME STATE” and which jurisdiction will handle the family case. UCCJEA also helps to protect non-custodial Parents fighting for child custody out of state when their children have been moved to another state or over 100 miles away from them.
How does The State of Texas treat an initial Child Custody determination?
Texas Family Code 152.201 of the UCCJEA states, among other things, that a court may consider custody issues if the Child:
*Has continually lived in the state for 6 months or longer and Texas was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the legal proceeding.
*Was living in the state before being wrongfully abducted elsewhere by a parent seeking custody in another state. One parent continues to live in Texas.
*Has an established over significant time relationships with people (family, relatives or teachers), ties, and attachments in the state
*Has been abandoned in an emergency: or is safe in the current state, but could be in danger of neglect or abuse in the home state
Relocation is a child custody situation which will turn on the individual facts of the specific case, so that each case is tried on its own merits.
Most child custody relocation cases tried in Texas follow a predictable course:
- Allowing or not allowing the move.
- Order of psychological evaluations or social studies of family members
- Modification of custody and adjusting of child’s time spent with parents
- Adjusting child support
- Order of mediation to settle dispute
- Allocating transportation costs
- Order opposing parties to provide all information on child’s addresses and telephone number.
There is another important cause of action in Texas where the court will “take “EMERGENCY JURISDICTION’ over a case even though another state has the original jurisdiction. If the opposing party can prove that a legitimate emergency exists and Texas needs to assume the jurisdiction. These emergency situations could be abuse of the child, abandonment or cause neglect of the child, or any action that would put the child in immediate harm’s way.
The Nacol Law Firm P.C. @ www.nacollawfirm.com is committed to helping parents have the right to have frequent and continuing contact with their child at all times and encourage parents to co-share in the rights and duties of raising a stable, loving child. Many times, because of parental alienation or other personal factors, a child will be taken away from the non-custodial parent and this can cause some serious mental and behavior problems for the child which could follow her/him into a lifetime adult situation.
Sometimes you can settle, SOMETIMES YOU FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT! We can help!
Courts, legislatures and juries are becoming more aware of the necessity of father’s being involved in the lives of their children. Children with positive father involvement have fewer behavior problems, higher levels of sociability, and perform better in school.
Recent research suggests that father involvement during pregnancy affects multiple areas of child and family well- being, from prenatal care initiation and mother and child health outcomes, to the likelihood that the father will provide ongoing financial and emotional support. This body of research is gaining momentum. Local and regional governmental agencies are focusing more and more on parental father involvement in the lives of children.
As a result of the changes taking place in society today, the Courts are now recognizing a father’s ability to care for his children as becoming equal to that of the mother. Starting out on an equal plane, the Court may look to which parent is more stable, has a superior income, has a parenting plan in place for the child and is capable of providing proper child care and spending more quality time with the child.
If a father ignorantly gives up rights to his children based on prejudices of the past in the Court system he can feed a mother’s confidence and sponsor unnecessary ongoing litigation. The number one mistake made by father’s in the court system today is a failure to take the time to learn how the system works. Failing to learn how the family law system works may doom your case. Once you have learned the ins and outs of the family law system you will need to form a plan, set goals and never relent in enforcing your rights as a father.
Five of the biggest mistakes men make in a legal action are: 1) failing to respond to the legal action itself; 2) obtaining incorrect legal advice (from friends and family rather than a legal expert); 3) signing a settlement agreement they are not in agreement with and later deeply regretting it; 4) failing to perform under the actual settlement agreement signed; and 5) getting frustrated and/or acquiescing to unreasonable orders.
Some of the things you may want to consider as you prepare for the custody battle are as follows:
- Who has the financial ability to best care for the child(ren)? Be sure to have income tax verification, W-2 Forms and other financial information available.
- Form a parenting plan (child care, after school care, transportation, pediatrician, etc.).
- Who is more stable and/or can provide the best home for the child(ren)?
- Where has the child(ren) been attending school? Is it possible to keep the child in the same school district?
- Prepare a chronology of events leading up to the divorce including treatment of the child(ren), time spent with the child(ren), activities with the child(ren), the child(ren)’s schedule.
- Consider if a home study should be prepared regarding each home of the child.
- Consider whether a psychological evaluation should be done on the mother?
- Is drug testing necessary? (Be sure to request hair follicle drug testing.)
- Is there an alcohol or other addiction problem in the home?
- Who can provide the best moral upbringing for the children?
- Is there evidence such as pictures, video tapes, etc. that may help your case?
- Avoid unnecessary compromising photos or data on Facebook or other social networking sites.
List any other relevant issues you feel may be important to your case before you meet with an attorney.
The most important thing to remember is that your failure, if based on dated concepts and inapplicable worn out prejudices, will be her victory and your parental failure.
Dealing with a worldwide medical pandemic and personally trying to stay alive and healthy is mentally changeling, but for parents who are divorced or have separate custody agreements and co- parent, it can be a disaster for the entire family. Hopefully, this Coronavirus Pandemic will be a short-lived life-threatening situation, but how the Co-parents cope with the problem could deeply impact their children’s emotional life.
In Texas, on March 13, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order that divorced /single parents should go by the originally published school and visitation schedule in their current decree. Since the last life-threatening pandemic in the United State was the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, most divorce/ single parent agreements do not include a pandemic clause!
Do not be one of those parents who decides that they “are the decision maker” and drives away with the kids for an extended vacation to Grandma’s in Florida without telling the other parent. Or deciding that the family circle of trust does not include their Other Parent and refuses visitation or joint decision making. These hasty, irrational decisions may seem reasonable in this time of national panic but consider the legal ramifications of violating an order. Since all courts, in Texas, are now closed except for emergency litigation matters only, when the courts are fully operational again and the medical danger has passed, how will a violation of your current decree look to the Judge? Judges always look to the needs of the child versus the unreasonable expectations of the parent. There will be serious ramifications against the violating parent.
Let’s look at some ideas on how co-parenting during this pandemic season can work the best for all family members and by joint agreement will save your both money that would normally go to legal fees.
Just remember that as co-parents your children are most important. Your child has been told that they can’t see their grandparents because of their age and if infected by the coronavirus, may die. No school, no playing of sports, or playing with friends since they may be infected with a deadly virus and become very ill. Decide to cooperate as responsible co-parents to navigate the child to the new changes in their daily routines without a lot of stress and anxiety on the child. By keeping the child calm and showing “a united family circle” the child will know that Mom and Dad are there for him/her.
Some areas of agreement should be that the child will have regular email, phone calls, FaceTime, Zoom visits, and texting with the other parent. The child needs to know that both parents are safe and interested in their wellbeing. Regular visitations times must be made available for the child to see each parent. Remember the child’s core circle of trust are his/her parents and siblings.
Another very serious matter is the decision of what will happen to the child if one parent becomes ill and cannot care for the child. The joint decision must be made by both parents and must ultimately be in the best interest for the child.
Custody disputes and circumstances that have totally changed in the last month. Just remember, co-parent cooperation is the best choice. There is no doubt that judges will be happy to hear that parents have worked together to meet their child’s best interest, by taking steps to protect the child’s health and safety.
This is a time for mutual give and take from both parents. No one is always right nor always wrong. In this upside crazy pandemic world, jointly trying to navigate your family to a better place will have its own rewards.
If, however, one parent unilaterally refuses to make fair agreements for the children or violates your custody orders, avoid retaliation and follow your decree orders faithfully. This Pandemic will pass, and most Judges will not treat lightly intense misconduct when the courts reopen.
Mark A. Nacol
The Nacol Law Firm P.C.
The number of fathers caring for their children is growing at a rate almost twice that of single mothers. The bottom line is more men are choosing to be hands-on fathers. In addition, presumed joint custody — or shared custody by both parents of children of divorce — is now the law of the land in most states.
Scores of research have documented the positive effects of a father’s involvement in a child’s life. Regrettably, currently approximately 30% of American children live without their father’s involvement in their life.
As the number of women in the work force has increased, some men appear to have become more involved in fatherhood and show greater interest in child-care responsibilities. With more women in the workplace than ever before — 68% of women with children under 18 — divorce courts in most states are not simply awarding custody and care of children to mothers by default. In some cases, the mother has neither the time, nor the will, to care full time for her offspring. In other cases, she may not have the financial means. The gradual progress towards leveling the playing field for women at work has resulted in slowly leveling the playing field at home. The law is beginning to catch up as well. Divorce laws of more and more states are taking into account the importance of children maintaining relationships with dads as well as moms after divorce.
Following is a sample of what other sources have had to say about the risks faced by fatherless children:
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)
- 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Source: Center for Disease Control)
- 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978.)
- 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Source: National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)
- 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
- 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992)
After economic factors are excluded, children reared in fatherless homes are more than twice as likely to become male adolescent delinquents or teen mothers.
Recent studies have suggested that children whose fathers are actively involved with them from birth are more likely to be emotionally secure, confident in exploring their surroundings, have better social connections with peers as they grow older, are less likely to get in trouble at home and at school, and are less likely to use drugs and alcohol. Children with fathers who are nurturing, involved, and playful also turn out to have higher IQs and better linguistic and cognitive capacities.
The divorce process is difficult for all involved. It is far better for the children if the parents are able and willing to place them outside of difficult divorce issues. Children want to run and laugh and play. In many cases they are not mature enough to process adult issues. Keep heated issues between the adults and away from hearing range of the children. No matter how angry a parent is, they should promote the children viewing the other parent in a positive light. Children need positive role models. Even if a parent feels the other parent has wronged them, it is just as wrong for that parent to take away the ability for their children to have a parent they can be proud of and look up to.
When the custodial parent of a child dies, in the state of Texas, not only is the child and family union devastated, but now is presented the difficult issue of who will become the child’s guardian. Who are the possible candidates that may be legal guardians?
- Non- Custodial parent, if paternity is acknowledged
- Other relatives
- Godparents, Family friends, Neighbors
- State Foster System
Usually, the surviving non-custodial parent will have an automatic right to custody of the child. Texas law favors a child having a solid relationship with both parents and in the event of death, the living parent will take over permanent exclusive custody of the child. What factors should be considered in the child’s best interest that could determine custody by the surviving parent if he/she is not appropriate for the child?
- Did the court, after the divorce, terminate your parental rights in a legal proceeding? If the non- custodial parent had legally been terminated of his/her parental rights this is binding and the terminated parent WOULD NOT be granted permanent custody of the child.
- What if the custodial parent remarried and the new stepparent legally adopted the child? If the child was legally adopted by the stepparent and the non-custodial parent had waived their parental rights, the stepparent would be granted permanent custody of the child.
- What if the non-custodial parent has acknowledged parentage, but paternity has not been established? To be entitled to custody of the child, the father would first claim parental rights through paternity testing to determine if he is the biological father of the child or if he has signed the child’s birth certificate. After Paternity is established, a separate legal proceeding may need to be initiated to override the terms of the mother’s will.
- What if the Custodial Parent created a will that stated the grandparents/godparents would take over as the legal Guardians of the child in the event of death? Many parents will request a particular person or group, such as grandparents, relatives, or godparents to become guardians for their minor children in the case of their demise, but a child is not a piece of property to give away to others when the other biological parent is living. The judge will view what is in the best interest of the child and will always first look at the surviving parent. If this parent meets basic standards the child will live with this parent. If the surviving parent cannot serve the child’s best interest, then the judge will consider the guardian designated in the deceased parent will.
Nacol Law Firm P.C.