My Ex Left the State with Our Child and I Want to File a Motion to Modify Custody. Where Can I File?

Depending on where you live, this issue may or may not ever come up.  I practice in an area near two state borders and primarily in Kentucky which borders seven different states.  Therefore, we deal with this all of the time; I have been hired in three separate cases in the past week alone dealing with this issue.  The applicable statute is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

As of this writing, the UCCJEA has been adopted by forty-nine out of fifty states (Massachusetts is the lone holdout in case you were wondering).  The point of the statute was to bring the states in line with the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA).  Both of these statutes have a goal of preventing forum shopping in child custody situations and keeping the same court involved in the case as long as possible so as to provide some stability to the situation.

In the event a primary residential parent has relocated pursuant to the Family Court Rules of Procedure and Practice an issue may come up where the nonresidential parent wishes to file to modify custody or time sharing.  Once a court has made a custody determination, that court is the originating jurisdiction for child custody decisions and retains that jurisdiction as long as the child an one parent or at least one parent continues to reside in that jurisdiction.  A recent case makes it clear that for Kentucky it does not matter if neither parent continues to reside within the same county or judicial circuit, as long as they remain in the state.  Therefore, as long as the non-residential parent remains a resident of the originating jurisdiction, the motion would be filed in that jurisdiction.  An opposing party might attack the pleading on the basis of venue or inconvenient forum, but we can discuss that in a future post.

Jurisdictional issues can get very tricky and you need the advice of a skilled family law attorney.  If you have more questions, please contact us at the Alford Law Office.

Photo by Kevin Hutchinson

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