Multi-State Jurisdiction

We occasionally encounter problems when one spouse moves out of New Jersey to another State. Afterwards, custody or parenting time disputes arise and now there’s a question as to which State court gets to decide the matter. To answer this question, we look to the sweeping statute known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was drafted to help determine the standard for exclusive, continuing jusisdiction. It establishes that the child’s “home state” receives prioritization for initial custody jurisdiction, and many other laws and standards to help us determine which state has initial jurisdiction. In New Jersey, the Appellate Division addressed the issue of continuing jurisdiction in 1998 the case of Bless v. Bless. The Appellate division held that “… a state does not automatically lose jurisdiction over custody when it is no longer the home state, if one parent remains resident in that state, the child has significant contact with the state, there is substantial relevant evidence available in the state, and it is in the child’s best interest for that state to make that determination.”  However, a more recent 2007 case, Griffith v. Tressel, held that when the relationship between the child and the parent remaining in the state with exculsive, continuing jurisdiction becomes too attenuated, exculsive, continuing jurisdiction is lost. Thus, the court must decide whether, during the time between the initial order tha filing of a motion for modification, circumstances have changed so as to divest this state of its jurisdiction. So here, yet again, there is no “black and white” answer to the question and the court really looks to the child’s best interest.

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