Jurisdiction refers to the concept of one court having the ability to hear a case that one party has brought against another. There are some basic jurisdictional requirements that must be in place for a court to hear a Texas family law case. Specifically, you or the other party must have resided in Texas for the past six months and in the county where your case has been field for the prior 90 day period. If you can’t establish residency for these periods of time the court will not have jurisdiction over case.
In the event that you and your child’s other parent reside in different counties, or in extremely rare cases where you, your child’s other parent and your child all reside in different counties, there may be situations where you find yourself in a position where multiple Texas counties have legitimate claims to jurisdiction over a case. Imagine if you filed a Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship (SAPCR) in Harris County. The next day, your ex-spouse filed a SAPCR in Waller County alleging similar circumstances and requesting a temporary orders hearing the following week.
What happens now? Could you be forced to appear at your own hearing in Harris County and another hearing in Waller County later that week? How will the courts determine where the case should be heard? Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC will seek to answer this question utilizing both state and federal laws related to family cases.
Two courts will not have simultaneous jurisdiction over a live family law case
Even if you and your ex-spouse were to theoretically file a SAPCR case around the same time that concerns the same child it will not be possible for your case to bounce back and forth in between both counties. For instanced, if your child custody case has been filed in Waller and Harris counties the two judges will look Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) in order to determine what court has actual jurisdiction over the persons and subject matter involved.
In other cases, you and your ex-spouse may file child custody cases in different states. Obviously it will be inconvenient for at least one of you to have to travel back and forth in between your home and the out-of-state court. In the legal world this is known as an “inconvenient forum.” Here are the factors that a court will consider in order to avoid granting jurisdiction to an “inconvenient” court.
Did your final decree of divorce provide guidance on the issue of jurisdiction? In some situations parties will agree beforehand as to what county will be proper to file subsequent cases within. For instance, your final decree of divorce may contain language that formally declares that Harris County is the chosen location for any future modifications, enforcement or SAPCR cases. Thus, every other jurisdiction is eliminated from the list of possible venues for a court case related to these child(ren).
What court is more familiar with the issues of your case? This would obviously give the leg up to the court that originally heard issues related to your family. Whether that be an original SAPCR suit or divorce, that court is in a better position to have knowledge of the issues or at least experience in handling matters related to your case. If yours would be an original SAPCR case then this factor would have little applicability.
Is one court in a better position to quickly sort out the issues and deliver a decision? Based on the location of the parties, their witnesses or evidence one court may be better positioned to deliver an efficient hearing of the evidence and produce a decision. Certain counties may have a back-log of cases that require months or even years before a trial date can be had. On the other hand a court may have procedures in place that allow for a quicker resolution and a trial date to be reached in a matter of months. Faster and more efficient resolution of the issues is what most any court would like to strive for.
What does your financial situation look like? If you are a struggling single parent who does not have the means to travel this would give your locally filed case a leg up over the interstate case filed by your ex-spouse. The two courts can do an analysis of your and your opposing party’s finances to determine if one or the other is well suited to handle a cross state family law case. Many people, if not most people, are not capable of travelling long distances in order to prosecute a family law case. However, if your ex-spouse is financially able to do so that would provide you with an advantage that may be necessary to keep your case local to you and your child.
Is domestic/family violence involved in the case? The big thing that any court is going to put at the forefront (as far as goals are concerned) when it comes to family violence is whether or not that court is well positioned to protect the victim(s) and best ensure that future incidents of violence do not occur. For instance, it would not be wise to force a victim of family violence to have to travel long distances to a county where the perpetrator of the violence and their entire family live.
Where is the child residing? This is a huge topic. It is a general concept that the court that hears a child custody case should be in the same county where the child is residing. If your child has recently moved out of state- or was taken out of state by a parent- the courts involved would look to the length of time that the child has lived in that location before making a decision as to where jurisdiction is appropriate.
What happens if a Texas court declines jurisdiction
If the court in Texas declines to hear the case its responsibilities do not end at that moment. This court will need to make sure that the child involved in your case is safe and that conduct detrimental to the safety of the child does not occur. While this is ongoing the Texas court can determine that it is necessary for one side to pay the other a certain amount of “fees” associated with litigated the case. Examples of fees that may come into play are child care costs, witness fees, expenses for travel and attorney’s fees. Your case would likely be stayed until the court with jurisdiction can add the case to a docket.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Custody Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child custody, it's important to speak with one of our Spring, TX Child CustodyLawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our child custodylawyers in Spring TX are 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, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, 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.