Child custody issues can be difficult for the parties involved at any time, but when the custody case crosses a state line, Dallas family law attorney Mark Nacol warns that many more conflicts and problems may arise.
Most states follow a uniform law regarding determination of appropriate state jurisdiction in custody matters known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and related statutes laws which enforce or set procedures regarding proper jurisdiction such as the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act. Texas has adopted these statutes. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act defines which state has or may maintain jurisdiction in a particular case and often mandates that other states recognize decisions handed down by the state determined to have jurisdiction.
The Act states, among other things, that a court may rule on custody issues if the Child:
- Has continually lived in that state for 6 months or longer
- Was living in the state before being wrongfully taken elsewhere by a parent seeking custody in another state
- Has an established relationship with people (family, relatives or teachers), ties, and attachments in the state
- Has been abandoned: or is safe in current state, but could be in danger of neglect or abuse in the home state
There are a number of core factors involved in determining which state is appropriate to initiate or maintain an existing suit. Usually, there are only two states involved, but it is possible to have more than two states involved in cases where there is a frequent moving of the parties and or the children. Generally, any state in which one of the parties and the child has continually resided for a year may establish venue to commence a lawsuit.
The Nacol Law Firm PC represents parents trying to enforce these laws; cases where there is a need to persuade courts to apply the specific, narrow exceptions to these general rules in order to have custody cases heard in the most convenient forum in which the most evidence is available; cases where the child’s home state or other basic questions need to be clarified, and cases where a parent has violated or has been falsely accused of violating these laws.
With the increase of parents moving from state to state and internationally, Child Custody cases involving crossing state lines, is causing many legal conflicts and costly legal battles. Most states follow a uniform law regarding determination of appropriate state jurisdiction in custody matters known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and related statutes which enforce or set procedures regarding proper jurisdiction such as the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act. Texas has adopted these statutes. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act defines which state has or may maintain jurisdiction in a particular case and often mandates that other states recognize decisions handed down by the state determined to have jurisdiction.
How does The State of Texas view the initial Child Custody determination?
Texas Family Code 152.201 of the UCCJEA states, among other things, that a court may rule on custody issues if the Child:
*Has continually lived in that 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 relationship 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
How can Continuing Exclusive Jurisdiction be lost?
- When A Texas Court determines that neither the child, or a child and one parent have a significant contact with Texas, and substantial evidence is no longer available in Texas concerning the child’s care, protection, and personal relationships
- Texas or another state determines that the child and the child parents do not presently reside in Texas.
What about Jurisdiction to Modify an Existing Order?
In the absence of temporary emergency jurisdiction, Texas cannot modify a child custody decision made by another state’s court unless or until a court of this state has jurisdiction to make an initial custody determination and one of the following occurs:
- Another State determines it no longer has continuing jurisdiction or finds that Texas would be a more convenient forum.
- A court determines that the child and the child’s parents do not presently reside in the other state.
What about Temporary Emergency Jurisdiction?
Temporary emergency jurisdiction is reserved for very extraordinary circumstances. The court has and may assert jurisdiction only when a child is present in the state and has been abandoned or is in need of protection because of a threat or subjected the child to mistreatment or abuse.
When involved in an international child custody case where the child has been abducted or is wrongfully retained, the issue may be determined if the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, 12 USC Section 11.601-11610, of the Hague Convention, is applicable. If so, The US State Department Office of Citizen & Counselor Services should be contacted or any attorney may file suit for return of the child.
At the Nacol Law Firm PC, we represent parents trying to enforce these laws; cases where we try to persuade courts to apply the specific, narrow exceptions to these general rules in order to have custody cases heard in the most convenient forum in which the most evidence is available; cases where the child’s home state or other basic questions need to be clarified, and cases where a parent has violated or has been falsely accused of violating these laws.
Getting Divorced? Here is Your Financial Checklist to Get Started.
Preparing for a Texas Divorce: Assets
Preparing for a divorce is painful no matter the circumstance. Before you get into the tangle of the Texas divorce process, you can reduce the expense, stress and conflict many people face by making sure you are prepared. Planning ahead allows you to make sound decisions and start preparing for your life post-divorce, and may also help you avoid post-divorce pitfalls. Below is a list of items you need to gather before counseling with an attorney.
1. A Listing of all Real Property, address and location, including (include time-shares and vacation properties):
1. Deeds of Trust
3. Legal Description
4. Mortgage Companies (Name, Address, Telephone Number, Account Number, Balance of Note, Monthly Payments)
5. Current fair market value
2. Cash and accounts with financial institutions (checking, savings, commercial bank accounts, credit union funds, IRA’s, CD’s, 401K’s, pension plans and any other form of retirement accounts):
1. Name of institution, address and telephone number
2. Amount in institution on date of marriage
3. Amount in institution currently
4. Account Number
5. Names on Account
3. Retirement Benefits
1. Exact name of plan
2. Address of plan administrator
5. Starting date of contributions
6. Amount in account on date of marriage
7. Amount currently in account
8. Balance of any loan against plan
4. Publicly traded stock, bonds and other securities (include securities not in a brokerage, mutual fund, or retirement account):
1. Number of shares
2. Type of securities
3. Certificate numbers
4. In possession of
5. Name of exchange which listed
6. Pledged as collateral?
7. Date acquired
8. Tax basis
9. Current market value
10. If stock (date option granted, number of shares and value per share)
5. Insurance and Annuities
1. Name of insurance company
2. Policy Number
4. Type of insurance (whole/term/universal)
5. Amount of monthly premiums
6. Date of Issue
7. Face amount
8. Cash surrender value
9. Current surrender value
10. Designated beneficiary
6. Closely held business interests:
1. Name of business
3. Type of business
4. % of ownership
5. Number of shares owned if applicable
6. Value of shares
7. Balance of accounts receivables
8. Cash flow reports
9. Balance of liabilities
10. List of company assets
7. Mineral Interests (include any property in which you own the mineral estate, separate and apart from the surface estate, such as oil and gas leases; also include royalty interests, work interests, and producing and non-producing oil and gas wells.
1. Name of mineral interest
2. Type of interest
3. County of location
4. Legal description
5. Name of producer/operator
6. Current market value
8. Motor Vehicles (including mobile homes, boats, trailers, motorcycles, recreational vehicles; exclude company owned)
5. Name on title
6. VIN Number
7. Fair Market Value
8. Name of creditor (if any), address and telephone
9. Persons listed on debt
10. Account number
11. Balance of any loan and monthly payment
12. Net Equity in vehicle
9. Money owed by spouse (including any expected federal or state income tax refund but not including receivables connected with any business)
10. Household furniture, furnishings and Fixtures
11. Electronics and computers
12. Antiques, artwork and collectibles (including works of art, paintings, tapestry, rugs, crystal, coin or stamp collections)
13. Miscellaneous sporting goods and firearms
15. Animals and livestock
16. Farming equipment
17. Club Memberships
18. Travel Award Benefits (including frequent flyer miles)
19. Safe deposit box items
20. Burial plots
21. Items in any storage facility
22. A listing of separate property (property prior to marriage, family heir looms, property gifted)
23. Listing of all liabilities (including mortgages, credit card debt, personal loans, automobile loans, etc.):
a. Name of entity, address and telephone number
b. Account number
c. Amount owed
d. Monthly payment
e. Property securing payment (if any)
f. Persons listed as liable for debt
Recently the news covering the custody battle between Bode Miller and his child’s biological mother Sarah McKenna became a 24-hour news cycle. According to court filings, Ms. McKenna while still pregnant moved to New York from California to attend school. Approximately a month prior to Ms. McKenna’s departure from California, Mr. Miller filed a paternity and custody suit in California State Court. Two days after the child was born, Ms. McKenna filed a custody case in New York State Court. The New York family court decided that the Ms. McKenna had “fled” California with the child in utero; and, while this was not child abduction under the UCCJEA, the Court decided the move was simply to avoid the California Court’s jurisdiction. Further, the Court decided that the prior paternity/custody suit filed in California by Mr. Miller, “trumped” the New York filing as well, giving California statutory authority to decide the custody issue. In On November 14, 2013, the New York Family Court’s decision was overturned on appeal and was remanded back to New York family court for further decision on all issues.
This case has ignited a debate over whether a mother may move an unborn child to a different jurisdiction prior to the birth of the child.
Even if you have not been proven to be the biological father of the child, in Texas, you still have legal rights that may be enforced.
Prior to the birth of the child, you may request a DNA test from the court. If the mother agrees paternity can be determined even before the baby is born. In addition, now there are non-evasive and less risky options for prenatal testing for paternity.
A purported father does have the right to establish paternity. Establishing paternity in Texas can be a process that occurs prior to the birth of the child. There are several forms of pre-natal testing available. Some methods are costly and some methods more invasive than others. In Texas, a man can establish paternity prior to the birth of a child by filing a request for adjudication of parentage and voluntary litigation. If the mother agrees to prenatal testing the Court will accept the DNA test results and make a determination on the record. However, if the mother does not agree, a Court may not force her to have invasive testing on the fetus.
A purported father has a right to a custody determination although this right cannot be determined prior to the birth of the child. In Texas, a court has jurisdiction to decide custody issues if Texas is the “home state” of the child. In the case of a child less than six months of age, “home state” means “the state in which the child lived from birth with a parent. . . .” Tex. Fam. Code Ann §152.102(7); see also Waltenburg v. Waltenburg, 270 S.W.3d 308, 315 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2008, no pet.).