Working out a child custody plan as part of your divorce can be complicated by the fact that you and your ex now live in different states. If you still live in Ohio, but your former spouse (and current co-parent) moved to Pennsylvania, New York or California, shared custody or visitation probably won’t be as simple as driving your children to your ex’s house once or twice per week.
Still, with creative, good-faith planning and negotiation, most parents are able to agree on an interstate custody plan that is in the kids’ best interests and fits the parents’ lives as well. Before you can do that, you should know two things about how the law treats interstate child custody cases.
Which state will hear my custody dispute?
First, you should know which state’s family law courts have jurisdiction (the power to hear and decide the case) over the matter. There are three options, listed here by order of preference:
- The child’s home state — that is, the state where the child has lived with at least one of their parents for at least six months
- A state where the child has significant connections, such as grandparents, teachers and doctors
- The state where the child is living due to a credible fear of abuse or neglect from a parent in their former state
Sometimes, more than one state can qualify for jurisdiction. When this happens, usually, the state’s court that makes the first custody decision is the one that gets jurisdiction.
Will my ex’s new state enforce the child custody order?
Nearly every state, including Ohio, follows the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. This, along with the Full Faith and Credit Clause in the U.S. Constitution, means that in almost every case, judges in State A must enforce the terms of a valid child custody order from State B.
Practically speaking, sharing custody long-distance can be challenging. But your family can adapt. Things like longer, less frequent custody changes, virtual visitation and airplanes can keep both yourself and your ex in your children’s lives.