HOW IS JURISDICTION DEFINED IF THE PARENTS RESIDE IN SEPARATE STATES?
There is what is called the UCCJEA that is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act. That is the federal law of the land. Kansas has ratified it, so there is a law that looks very similar to the federal law that guides jurisdiction. Under the UCCJEA, the most predominantly used in any of these cases is what is called home state jurisdiction. Under the UCCJEA, home state jurisdiction refers to whether or not the child has lived in a state for six months. If we were asking it today, we would ask, “Has this child who I am looking to potentially have orders on, lived in the state of Kansas for six months? If so, then Kansas is the child’s home state.”
The highest binding finding of jurisdiction under the UCCJEA is home state. Meaning, there is a clear home state for a child that trumps the other types of ways a court can establish jurisdiction. If there is a home state where the child has been in that state for six months, then that state court should have jurisdiction. You can have a situation where say Kansas may have been the home state of the child, and then say there is a move that got resolved outside of court, because one parent sent the notice, and then they talked it out, and were able to come to an amicable agreement. Then the parent moves with the kids to Colorado. At that point in time, we are assuming the parties at least originally went to court in Kansas, because they were both in Kansas at one point in time.
In most court orders, whatever court establishes jurisdiction will have continuing jurisdiction over the children, until it is essentially deemed not effective jurisdiction. Say, somebody moves to Colorado, and they are there for twelve months. At that point in time, they can actually have two choices. They could still file something in Kansas with continuing jurisdiction, or if they wanted to, they could file something in the Colorado court and ask for a change of jurisdiction as well. The reason you would list there is “Because the kids have been here for 12 months” and under the UCCJEA home state jurisdiction provision, home state is considered after six months. In that scenario, the court in Kansas would more than likely defer and say “You’re right, it’s probably more appropriate to have this in Colorado.”
You should be doing it wherever the kids have lived for the last six months. From there, if you cannot get any of those home states to apply in any way, there are other provisions. The next rung on the ladder is significant connection jurisdiction, and that, the UCCJEA generally reads, when a child has no home state, or when a home state declines jurisdiction, another state court may exercise jurisdiction of the child if they have a sufficient tie to the state. If a child does not have a home state, essentially which court should have jurisdiction would be an argument between, where do we think the child is more connected. In most of these cases, there is never really any clear, bright answer. It comes to arguments, and who can make the more convincing argument to the court on jurisdiction.