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Which State Do I File My Child Custody Action In?

Overland Park Attorneys Help You Understand in what State to File During a Multistate Custody Dispute

Kansas firm advises clients on jurisdiction issues related to parenting matters

When the divorced parents of a child or children live in different states, it raises the issue of which state has jurisdiction over a child custody or visitation dispute. The Henry Law Firm, P.A. in Overland Park can help you determine if Kansas is the right state in which to bring a child custody action. If so, we can handle the legal proceedings. Should another state have jurisdiction, we offer sound guidance and can help find a qualified attorney to help you there.

Where should you file?

The rules for determining where to file a child custody or visitation case after a divorce are complicated, partly because a state with priority may decline to accept jurisdiction in certain circumstances. These rules are described in the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The preferred place to file is the child’s home state, which is where the child lives with a parent or guardian either from birth or for at least six consecutive months immediately before the filing of the custody or visitation action. If the child has no home state or the home state declines jurisdiction, the case may be filed in any state with significant ties to the child beyond mere physical presence and where relevant evidence exists.

The first-filed case usually has preference, but where rival cases are filed, the relevant judges might choose to have the matter heard where the second action was filed or maybe in another state altogether. In an emergency, a state might take the case to temporarily protect the child from abuse or neglect. In rare instances, UCCJEA disputes have gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. After reviewing the applicable facts in your situation, we can determine if Kansas is the appropriate state. If it is, our firm will represent you and fight to keep your case there.

When may a state decline jurisdiction?

The UCCJEA allows states to decline jurisdiction over child custody cases on two grounds:

  • Inconvenient forum — This ground applies when it’s necessary to avoid domestic violence, the child has lived out of the state for too long, the bulk of the evidence is located in another state or another state is most familiar with the case.
  • Unjustifiable conduct — A state should not accept jurisdiction that results from an unjustifiable action of the party bringing the custody action. Generally speaking, wrongfully taking, keeping and hiding the child in a state is considered unjustifiable, but may be justified if it was done to prevent domestic violence.

We sometimes must defend an action brought in Kansas from a challenge on one of these grounds, or we may ourselves object to hearing a case in Kansas on behalf of an out-of-state parent.

How do you file a custody action when parents live in different states?

Except in emergency cases, once a state validly accepts a custody or visitation case, no other state can hear it until the first case is terminated or stayed. Therefore, if the appropriate state is in question, you should file an action as soon as possible. You are then required, unless it would endanger the child, to provide information on:

  • The child’s location
  • Any other relevant court proceedings
  • Any person having, or claims to have, physical custody of the child

We make sure these actions are filed correctly.

Contact a knowledgeable Kansas attorney regarding a multistate custody issue

At The Henry Law Firm, P.A. in Overland Park, we advise parents on where their child custody case should be filed. Call us at 913-381-5020 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our Kansas family law attorneys.

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