While the majority of families going through divorce or child custody issues usually reside in the same state, that is not always the case. For example, consider the Matthews family. The Matthews family resided in Minneapolis for most of their marriage, their children were born in Minnesota, and they got a divorce in Minnesota.  Thus Minnesota child custody laws applied. Soon after the Divorce, Mr. Matthews moved to New Jersey for a job opportunity, while Ms. Matthews and the two children remained in Minnesota. During this time, the children would spend Spring and Winter breaks with Mr. Matthews in New Jersey, as well as most of their summers in New Jersey. The majority of their school year was spent in Minneapolis with their mother.

The next year, Ms. Matthews got a job opportunity in Pennsylvania, so she and the children moved to Pennsylvania and now everyone had left Minnesota.  Due to the move, Mr. Matthews realized he could spend more time with the children, so he wanted to make a Motion to Modify their child custody and parenting time plan. The only question was, in which State or Court could he file his Motion? He had resided in New Jersey for over a year, and the children had stayed with him sporadically. On the other hand, the children and their mother had recently moved from Minnesota, and Minnesota was where the family had lived most of their life.  They also had obtained a Minnesota divorce. However, nobody was living in Minnesota anymore.  As to Pennsylvania, they had not lived in Pennsylvania for very long,  so was Pennsylvania the appropriate forum to file the case?

In situations like this, the answer comes from the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).  This Act was created to address problems exactly like what the Matthews family encountered.  In sum, the UCCJEA provides that, except in emergencies, a family, child, custodial parent, or all of the above needs to reside in a state for six consecutive months before they can file a Motion in that State, or commence a proceeding in family court.  In the Matthews case, Ms. Matthews had resided for more than six months in Pennsylvania, and the children had spent the majority of their time in Pennsylvania. So, for Ms. Matthews, the Motion her husband brought to modify custody was moved to Pennsylvania as the appropriate State. Although this family’s situation is based on unique circumstances, and not all outcomes will be the same, this is an example of how the UCCJEA governs situations such as these.

Our firm is experienced with handling situations such as these with surrounding states like Iowa and Wisconsin, but with also more complex matters like the Matthews family.  Contact us if you find yourself with a unique interstate family law matter.

For more information on the UCCJEA, visit:  https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=518d

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