If you are trying to get full custody of a child who lives in a different state, you must get to know the UCCJEA -- or Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. UCCJEA dictates that you file your petition in the state where the child has lived for the previous six months, which is considered the "home state." Under UCCJEA, which is recognized by most states, the state from which the request is being made is called the issuing state. The home state may allow the issuing state to exercise jurisdiction if the court deems the issuing state to be a more appropriate jurisdiction. If you can get jurisdiction transferred to your home state, you will have won half the battle.
File a Petition for Custody in the child's home state. Contact the clerk's office in the county where the child resides to obtain the appropriate forms. In addition to filing the Petition for Custody, file a Petition to Transfer Jurisdiction to your issuing state. Include in your petition information on where the child has resided for the past five years. If the child's extended family all lives in the issuing state, you can claim the home state to be an inconvenient forum under the UCCJEA. Once you file and pay the filing fees, you will receive a stamped copy of the petition and motion.
Provide notice of your petition and motion to the other parent and any guardians who may have been appointed in the case. Use a process server to serve the other parent and file an affidavit of service with the court.
Appear at the hearing on your petition. The court will examine your petition and make a determination whether jurisdiction shall remain in the home state or be transferred to the issuing state. If the court finds that jurisdiction is appropriate in the issuing state, the court will transfer the matter. In making this determination the court will look at a variety of factors such as the financial circumstances of the parties, the nature and location of any evidence that will need to be presented and the familiarity of each court with the specifics of the case.
If the court does not transfer the case, you must fight the battle in the home state. You will be able to enter some testimony by telephone, but you should consider hiring an attorney in the home state.
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