With today’s increasingly mobile society, it does not surprise me that I am seeing more and more custody cases involving multiple states and even different countries. Recently, I have had an influx of cases involving parents living in different locations, making it necessary to decide in which state or country custody proceedings should be initiated or restarted.
In Virginia, where a custody proceeding should occur when the two parents live in two different states or countries is determined by the application of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”). The UCCJEA treats a foreign country as if it were a state of the Unites States for the purpose of its application.
At the heart of the UCCJEA is a concept known as “home state,” which is defined in Section 20-146.1 of the Code of Virginia. A child’s “home state” is the state in which the child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding. If the child is less than six months old, his or her “home state” is the state in which the child lived from birth with one or more of the parents. While there are some caveats and/or additional criteria, Virginia typically must be the child’s “home state” before child custody proceedings can occur in one of its courts.
Unfortunately, the UCCJEA is fairly complex, even for the experienced family law practitioner. As a result, if you or child’s parent lives in a state other than Virginia or a country other than the United States, consult with a family law attorney before filing suit.