You’re moving away from North Carolina with approval by the court. If you do not like the custody and parenting arrangements that were reached by the North Carolina family court, it can be tempting to look to another state for a better arrangement. Can you start over when it comes to child custody?
Generally, no. That is because North Carolina and almost every other state has a law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). In large part, the law works to prevent to people from moving to another state (or country) in an effort to get a more favorable child custody order.
Under the UCCJEA, the child’s home state generally makes any child custody determinations. The home state is where the child lives or lived for six months before the child custody proceeding. If you already have a child custody order from North Carolina and your child’s other parent continues to live here, then North Carolina will almost certainly be considered the child’s home state.
Once you know the home state, that state’s courts have exclusive jurisdiction over child custody proceedings. This means that North Carolina will probably continue to have exclusive jurisdiction over your child custody case even after you have moved away.
What if I need my new state’s courts to enforce my child custody order?
There are situations where your ex has violated the child custody order and you need to enforce it. You do not have to come back to North Carolina for enforcement. You can register your North Carolina order in your new state. At that point, the new state has a duty to enforce your North Carolina order.
What about modifying the order?
The new state does not have the authority to make changes to an existing order under most circumstances. If you need to modify your child custody order, you would generally need to come back to North Carolina
Are there any exceptions?
Yes. The UCCJEA specifies procedures for changing jurisdiction in certain circumstances. For example, if you and your child have moved away and your ex also moves from North Carolina, a North Carolina court might rightly decide that there is no reason for jurisdiction to remain with the state. Working with the new state, it can determine that it no longer has jurisdiction and pass that authority on to the new state.
Also, if there is an emergency situation, a new state may take temporary emergency jurisdiction so the court can handle the case quickly.
If you have questions about jurisdiction under the UCCJEA or anything related to moving away with your kids, contact an experienced North Carolina family law attorney.