Jurisdiction and Child Custody
Sometimes in a disputed custody case, Pennsylvania courts will grant one parent’s request to relocate with the child to another state or county. If the other parent contests the move, the Court usually must have a trial on the issue. While the fight for a parent to move with the child away from the other parent (called “Relocation” in the Pennsylvania statute) can be an expensive battle in custody court; most of the time, it is not the end of the story. Even after a relocation is granted, it is common for the Court which granted the relocation to maintain jurisdiction over the custody matter, even while the parent and child are living outside of its boundaries, in another state or county. This means that if further custody proceedings are brought by either parent, the original Pennsylvania court may still have continuing and exclusive authority to hear the case, provided certain requirements are met.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is the law in Pennsylvania and most other states, which provides the framework for dealing with disputes over custody jurisdiction. The UCCJEA is a guide for when a Court who had initial jurisdiction over a custody matter can, and must, exercise its authority. For many, this can be a confusing and abstract concept. A common example our firm sees is something like this: Mother petitions the court in Pennsylvania, and is ultimately granted permission to relocate to New Jersey with the parties’ child, while Father, who contested the relocation, remains in Pennsylvania. After some time goes by with Mother and child living in New Jersey, an issue arises which causes Mother to file with the custody court for a modification of the existing Pennsylvania order. Mother then asks: “Can I file for modification of custody in New Jersey? I’ve been living here with the child for years and having to go to Pennsylvania would be very inconvenient.”
The answer to Mother’s question in this situation is not a simple one. Reviewing the original custody order is a good starting point, but usually the next step is looking to the UCCJEA and its application to the facts of the case. If one of the parents is still residing in Pennsylvania and exercising custody there, the next step should be to consult a family law attorney who is well versed with the UCCJEA.
At LaMonaca Law, we have a team of experienced lawyers who can answers these kinds of difficult questions. For a consultation, please click or call 610-892-3877.