Child Custody Between States

After a divorce or separation, many parents chose to move away to get a fresh start in a new state. Others may decide to move back to a place where they have family to help take care of the children. When parents live in different states, it can complicate child custody and visitation. The children will generally have longer stays with one parent and parents may have to plan in advance to make long-distance travel arrangements.  

When there are problems with following custody orders, it can create conflict between the parents and with the children. If you need help coming up with an ideal parenting plan or the other parent is violating the visitation and custody orders, talk to your North Carolina family law attorney.

Sharing Custody Between States

When developing an initial parenting plan or making modifications after one parent moves out of state, interstate parenting plans and visitation schedules are generally different than plans where both parents live nearby. For long-distance visitation schedules, the parent will generally live with one parent and visit the other parent as negotiated by the parents. 

Depending on the distance, child's age, and individual factors, some parenting plans for interstate parents may include: 

  • Visits every weekend; 
  • Visit every other weekend;
  • Visit one weekend a month;
  • Visit one week every two or three months when children are not in school;
  • Visit on school breaks over the summer, spring, and winter; 
  • Three-day weekend visits; and
  • Holiday visits or alternating holidays.  

Visits generally involve having the child travel to the other parent's home but parents may also travel to the child's home area to spend time with the child. Parents of young children may have to fly out to pick up a child to return to their home and then make another roundtrip to drop off the child, making travel more expensive. 

Parents may also want to schedule regular phone calls or video chats with their child to ensure regular communication and connection with the child. 

Long-distance parenting plans may also need to plan for travel costs. These may be divided between the parents equally or allocated by court order or through parental agreement. Long-distance custody may also be less flexible as parents will need to give plenty of notice to the other parent for any changes to the visitation schedule. 

Child Support in Different States

Generally, the state that issues the child custody order will also determine child support. Most states follow the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) for determining which court will issue a child support order. 

The court that issued the order is also generally the court that would modify a child support order based on changed circumstances. When one parent moves out of state, it may change the child custody order, giving one parent more time with the child. Changing the child custody and visitation order may result in a change in child support. 

When it comes to enforcing child support orders, the parent may be able to file an application to enforce child support in the state where the original order was issued, or the state where the non-custodial parent lives. If you have questions about child support changes or enforcement after moving out of state, talk to your family law attorneys. 

Child Relocation After Divorce

If a parent has to move after a divorce, the custodial parent may have to file a petition to get the court or other parent's permission to move the child out-of-state. As with most cases involving disputes over child custody in North Carolina, the courts prefer to solve any issues through cooperation between the parents or mediation. Unfortunately, mediation is not always fruitful and the parties may need to take the case before the family court.

In determining whether to modify a child custody order based on a parent moving out of state, the court will base the decision on “what will best promote the interest and welfare of the child.” Factors that the court may consider include: 

  • The child's current living arrangement;
  • The parent's physical, emotional and psychological ability to adequately care for the child;
  • The child's relationship with each parent;
  • The ability of each parent to provide a stable home environment for the child;
  • The wishes of a child;
  • Religious and/or cultural considerations; 
  • Adjustment to school and community; and
  • Other relevant factors.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement 

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) has been enacted by almost all states in the U.S., including North Carolina. This law addresses whether a court has the power to decide custody involving more than one state or territory, including foreign countries and tribal courts. Under the UCCJEA, a court can exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction where it is necessary to protect the child or the child or parent is subjected to threats, mistreatment, or abuse. 

Initial Child Custody Jurisdiction

A court may have initial child-custody jurisdiction over a child custody matter where: 

  1. It is the child's home state;
  2. There is significant connection with the state;
  3. There is not a more appropriate forum; and
  4. There is no other state jurisdiction that would apply.

The home state is generally considered the state where the child has lived for at least six months before any child custody proceedings. Significant connections apply where there is no home state but the child or at least one parent has a significant connection other than just physical presence, and substantial evidence is available in the state concerning the child's care, protection, training, and personal relationships. This may include the location of the child's teachers, health care providers, or relatives. 

Modifying Child Custody Orders

When a court has originally issued a custody order, the court maintains jurisdiction over any modifications to that order. A court in another state may modify the order where: 

  • The parties have left the issuing state; 
  • The parties no longer have a significant connection with the state; 
  • The issuing court declines to exercise jurisdiction; or
  • Where the new court has grounds to exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction. 

North Carolina Family Law in Shelby

At Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC, we have represented parents in Shelby, Gaston County, and across North Carolina modify child support orders, enforce orders, and negotiate parenting plans for parents in different states. Contact us today for a consultation.