Interstate Child Support and Custody Jurisdiction Issues

Enforcing or changing custody agreements can become complicated when parents reside in different states or when one parent moves to another state with a child. Child custody disputes involve complicated interstate law. When parents reside in different jurisdictions without a court-issued custody order (commonly known as a parenting plan) the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act establishes which state has the authority to make initial custody decisions.

According to the law, Georgia has custodial authority if:

  • Georgia is the child’s home state- meaning the child lived in Georgia for the previous six months or more
  • The child and one parent have significant connections with Georgia- meaning that there is strong evidence in the state regarding the child’s upbringing, safety, education, and interpersonal interactions
  • The child leaves Georgia and goes back to his or her former home state but   they are at risk of abuse or neglect 

Once a court of any state has made a custody order, that state will always have jurisdiction over custody issues. If the initial custody order was made in Georgia, the state will continue to have jurisdiction to make changes. According to the law, no other state may change an existing child custody decision made by a Georgia court as long as one parent stays in Georgia. 

Enforcing An Existing Child Custody Order In Another State

Decisions made by a state with sufficient authority must be regarded by all other states under the full faith and credit clause. This means that a child custody order legally issued by a Georgia court must be honored by courts in other states. You must, however, issue a domestication of an order or judgment if you or the other parent of the child no longer reside in Georgia and wish to change an existing order. 

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, also referred to as the UCCJEA, is designed to help litigants and courts choose the proper jurisdiction and venue for a change of custody proceeding. The GCCIJA is intended to settle problems involving child custody inside the state of Georgia, whereas the UCCJEA is intended to settle disputes involving child custody between states. The UCCJEA has been ratified by a number of states around the country, and its main goal is to make the laws of the states that have adopted the act minimize conflict as much as possible. See O.C.G.A. § 19-9-101.

Georgia law mandates that Georgia courts liberally use this act in order to prevent jurisdictional competition between the states and the harm that competition has on the children involved. Additionally, Georgia courts liberally use this to guarantee that child custody proceedings take place in the state where the child and his or her family have the strongest connections. Similar to the Georgia Child Custody Interstate Territory Act, this law is essentially intended to stop non-custodial parents from kidnapping or otherwise transporting their kids to another state or territory in order to change custody.

The act establishes clear criteria and priority as to which state should have jurisdiction to decide original child custody issues and subsequent modification actions. This helps the UCCJEA achieve its goal of resolving and reducing disagreement between states about jurisdiction. The act also specifies how child custody orders can be enforced across state lines.

Initial Custody Determination

The UCCJEA states that Georgia, or any other state that abides by the UCCJEA, has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody decision only if: 

  1. The state is the child’s home state on the date the proceeding is initiated, the state was the child’s home state within six months prior to the initiating of the proceeding, or the child is absent from this state but a parent or person acting in the child’s place of residence continues to reside in this state.
  2. A court of the child’s home state has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the grounds that this state is the more appropriate forum, or a court of another state has declined to exercise jurisdiction under paragraph (1) of this subsection.
    1. The child has a significant relationship with this state that goes beyond simple physical presence with the child’s parents, or the child and at least one parent or a person acting in the capacity of a parent.
    2. Information about the child’s upbringing, safety, education, and interpersonal relationships is abundant in this state.
  3. All courts with jurisdiction under this subsection’s paragraphs (1) or (2) have declined to exercise that authority on the grounds that a court in this state is the more suitable place to decide the child’s custody. 
  4. According to the requirements listed in this subsection’s paragraphs (1), (2), and (3), no court in any other state would have jurisdiction.

See O.C.G.A. § 19-9-61 (a).

In most cases, Georgia and only Georgia will have jurisdiction to decide who gets to keep the child if Georgia is the child’s native state.

Domestication of Foreign Judgements

Domestication of Foreign Judgements refers to transferring the jurisdiction of one state to another. In most cases, domesticating the child support order in the new state where the obliged party has relocated is a good option. Any collection efforts and requests could be substantially expedited by it since it will not be editable in the new state. The optimum course of action is to domesticate the judgment to an obliged party’s state if both parties relocate from the originating state.

What is the process to domesticate an order?

To domesticate an order, the petitioner or complaint will have to first file a petition to file a domestication with the court. To file the petition, obtaining a certified copy of the Child Custody Order and Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce is necessary. The obligated party must receive notice in a format recognized by the new state following the filing of an action in the new state seeking domestication of the judgment. More documents may be required as the process proceeds.

In Georgia, we typically demand personal service to guarantee that the requirements of due process are met. Personal service occurs when a sheriff’s deputy or special process server hands the Defendant a copy of the summons and complaint. The sheriff’s deputy then submits proof of service with the clerk of court completing the service. The Defendant will then have thirty (30) days to respond and argue why, in this case, child support should not be moved or domesticated. You will most likely have to request a hearing from the court to finalize an order.

Once the domestication of foreign judgment is approved, you will then have to file a petition to edit the child custody order with the court. This will have to be approved by the new state’s court.

This article is written below for informational purposes, and provides a brief understanding about the Domestication of Foreign Judgements regarding child support.  As always, it is you are advised to consult with a local and experienced divorce and family law attorney. Call us today at 470-947-2471 to speak with one of our experienced and caring attorneys.  Contact >>