Courts’ Jurisdiction over Custody and Visitation Cases

Same State Custody and Visitation Jurisdiction

The state law provides which court will pass orders on custody and visitation issues when all parties are living in the same state. If the divorce is pending, the court hearing the divorce petition is the most appropriate venue for passing order on custody and visitation including grandparent visitation and custody. In some states, you must file the visitation petition along with a divorce proceeding while some states allow you to file visitation after the divorce order or as an original proceeding.

Different States Custody and Visitation Jurisdiction

When the grandparents and/or parents live in different states, there are many laws that will determine the appropriate forum for custody or visitation hearing. Under the Federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, a state must enforce custody or visitation orders passed in another state and not modify the order unless the original state ceases to have jurisdiction or has refused to exercise jurisdiction. In 1998, this Act was amended to include grandparents.

All states except Vermont and Massachusetts have their own version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. When no court has passed any order on custody or visitation, then the provisions of this Act will apply. Generally the child’s “home state” or the state that was the “home state” of the child for 6 months before the legal action and where one parent continues to live will have jurisdiction. A court in any state can exercise jurisdiction if the state having jurisdiction refuses to exercise jurisdiction or no other state exercises jurisdiction.

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