I Just Moved to Texas, Where Do I File My Child Custody SUit?

You probably must file in the state you just moved from.  Suits involving a child custody determination, or possession, visitation and access, fall under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”).  Almost all states have made it law, and in Texas, the UCCJEA is embodied in Chapter 152 of the Texas Family Code.

For initial child custody determinations, there are four options:

  1. The state is the home state of the child, meaning the child lived in the state for six months preceding the case, or the state WAS the home state of the child within six months before the case is filed and a parent or person acting as a parent still lives in the state.  Tex. Fam. Code 152.201(a)(1).
  2. No other state is the home state of the child or a court in the home state has declined to exercise jurisdiction (power) because another state is a more appropriate place because it is a) more convenient or b) a parent acted in bad faith or unjustifiably to make a certain state the home state of the child.  The child and at least one parent or person acting as a parent must have a substantial connection to the state in which the case will be filed or substantial evidence is available in that state.  Tex. Fam. Code 152.201(a)(2).
  3. All states that could exercise jurisdiction on the two grounds above have declined to do so because another state is the better forum because it is more convenient or because of bad conduct of a parent.  Tex. Fam. Code 152.201(a)(3).
  4. No court in another state would have jurisdiction under any of the three above grounds. Tex. Fam. Code 152.201(a)(4).

There is a basis for a court in Texas to make emergency orders, governed by Tex. Fam. Code 152.204, but speak with an attorney if it is going to come to that.  These interstate cases are not easy, and a lot of time and money can be wasted if you accidentally file in the wrong state.

About CJ.Harding
Chris believes one of the most important aspects of family law is seeing the 'big picture.' This means understanding the law, the facts of your case and the range of possible outcomes. Only after knowing each of those can an attorney convey the risks and potential results and guide you to make the right decision for your case, your life and your family. He understands every person and every case is unique. Chris will advocate for the very best possible result in your case. He has worked on a variety of family law cases, including tracing of assets, property division of estates worth more than one million dollars, international and interstate child custody issues, enforcement actions as well as pre-marital and post-marital agreements. Chris continues to be a student of the Law and helps to educate others by maintaining the "Hot Topics" section of the Firm web site, which features current issues in Texas family law. Topics have included how a bankruptcy can affect child support and the differences between alimony and court ordered spousal maintenance. Chris joined the firm after graduating cum laude from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. During his time at SMU, Chris competed in numerous mock and moot competitions and placed nationally. Chris is a native Texan, growing up in the Houston area and completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

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