During the Holiday season many Texas parents become very concerned over sending their child to the non-primary conservator parent’s home for a visit. Many Children will cross state lines to see their non-primary conservator parent and there is always a fear that the child may not be returned to his/her home state. What can you do if this does happen?
The State of Texas follows 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.
The Act states, among other things, that a court may rule on custody issues if the Child:
• Has continually lived in a home 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
How can Continuing Exclusive Jurisdiction be lost?
1. 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
2. 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:
1. Another State determines it no longer has continuing jurisdiction or finds that Texas would be a more convenient forum.
2. 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.
These interstate jurisdiction cases are very intensive. Get to a knowledgeable attorney and assert your rights quickly. Protect you and your child’s rights to have a normal child/parent relationship without the fear of abduction!