The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC recently had a client who had an interesting, albeit frustrating situation on his hands. This gentleman had lived, been married and had children in Texas. He and his wife raised their family here in Texas. Both our client and his wife remained in Texas until his wife decided to leave the State and take their two minor-children with her outside of the state. Our client did not know how to locate his children or how to begin to address the issue.
Once his wife was outside of the State, she filed for divorce and requested child support along with the divorce. Our client lacked the financial wherewithal to travel outside Texas and had no money to hire an attorney. He was stuck with no representation in the divorce that his wife was pursuing and had no way to contest what would turn out to be an extremely onerous child support obligation. He quickly fell behind on payments and ultimately when his ex wife and children returned to Texas the Attorney General’s office initiated a lawsuit against him for the back child support that was now owed.
The valid question that our client had in our first meeting was whether or not Texas could honor another State, or country’s, child support and custody orders. Since the children had been born in Texas and lived the vast majority of their lives in this State were the orders even valid as it pertained to him and his kids? Let’s discuss that subject in a bit more detail in this blog post.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)
A problem that family law courts were running into with some frequency in recent years was judges from other parts of the country creating new judgments based on information and evidence that was being presented to them without consideration for prior orders concerning the same litigants. In our increasingly mobile society families were and continue to move from state to state, leaving their old family court orders behind.
New life circumstances may call for new and updated court orders but instead of honoring prior decisions from other courts, family law judges would create brand new orders as if the prior orders had not been in existence. This meant that there could be multiple valid and current orders in place that could be contradictory. While an order from Florida could name you the primary conservator of your child with the right to designate the primary residence of your child, your wife could go to court in Texas and have the same thing ordered. These conflicting judgments create headaches for attorneys, courts and most notably families like yours.
Eventually, most U.S. states agreed to the provisions set forth in the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) to help prevent instances like this from occurring in the future. The UCCJEA creates a set of standards for judges to make decisions regarding child custody that will ensure that other states’ judges follow. The main issue that judges are concerned with is whether or not he or she has the jurisdiction (the legal right) to make decisions about a child.
What is a Texas judge actually looking for prior to weighing in on a custody matter?
Taking the UCCJEA into consideration, a judge will have the ability to make a decision on child custody if one of the following factors is in play:
-The child’s home state is making a decision. At a minimum, the child in question must have been living with either you or your child’s other parent in Texas for at least 180 days prior to a child custody case actually having been filed. This is the quickest and most straightforward way for a judge to assert their court’s jurisdiction over a case
-Strong connections between the child and Texas. A Texas judge will determine whether or not your child has strong enough connections to the state for there to be jurisdiction. Here, a judge would likely look to school, church, family and friend relationships that your child may have with our State to figure out whether jurisdiction is present.
-The child’s safety is in play. If your child is in Texas due to concerns for his or her safety then jurisdiction may be found. For example, if you had to remove your child from the possession of his or her other parent due to a concern for their physical well being then a judge in Texas may find jurisdiction to be in place here.
-There is no other state that can meet any of the above factors. As a last resort, if there is no other state that can satisfy any of the above factors then it becomes more likely that Texas will be able to assert jurisdiction.
The bottom line is that one of these factors must be in place for a Texas court to have jurisdiction and issue an order related to child custody. The UCCJEA is designed to minimize conflict in the creation of child custody awards and to take away any incentive for a parent to remove their child from one state and file for child custody orders in another without the consent or knowledge of the other parent. Based on the above factors, your ex spouse would not be able to quickly remove your child from Texas, go to another state and file for child custody orders there without the burden of satisfying at least one of those guidelines.
Questions regarding child custody or interstate jurisdiction? Please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
This is a subject that is becoming more and more common for families to have to sort through. Having representatives that work in the field of family law and that have been successful in helping families is critically important. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC represent clients across southeast Texas and would be honored to do the same for you and your family.
For a free of charge consultation please do not hesitate to contact our office today
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Tomball, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Tomball, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
A divorce lawyer in Spring TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.