You’ve gotten through a divorce, and you and the children still live in Colorado. Your former spouse, however, got a new job in another state. You worry your ex-spouse will try to go to court in another state to modify the custody arrangements, or as Colorado courts call it, parental responsibility, and move your children out of state. Can they do this?
Colorado and most other U.S. states have a statute called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which lays out when a state court can make custody determinations, and when a court has to defer to the original decision already made in Colorado. The only states that do not have this statute are Vermont and Massachusetts.
Under the act, another state besides Colorado cannot make decisions on custody arrangements if Colorado meets at least one of these conditions:
1) Is Colorado the child’s “home state?” A home state is defined by:
- The state where the child resided with a parent for at least six months before the legal action took place.
- The state where the child has been residing, before they were removed by another parent.
2) The child still has significant connections with people in Colorado: this includes family members like grandparents, friends, teachers and doctors.
Another state besides Colorado can make decisions on custody arrangements if you can answer yes to any of the following:
1) Is the child outside of Colorado because of safety concerns? Was the child removed from Colorado because of fear of abuse, neglect or abandonment?
2) Do no other states, including Colorado meet the above criteria of being the child’s home state or a place where the child has significant connections?
If the child has moved around a lot, and there aren’t any states that meet the above criteria, it is easier for another state to make custody decisions. If this the case, or if a state meets any of the above criteria, that state is allowed to make custody decisions.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act helps in circumstances where one parent tries to kidnap the child or children, thinking they can go to court in another state and win sole custody. Since it is likely that Colorado will be considered the child’s home state if you have been residing there with them for years, the law provides peace of mind in a situation where you think your ex-spouse will try to gain custody in another state.
Child custody disputes, or the possibility of disputes, can be overwhelming and stressful. A family law attorney can evaluate your specific circumstances and guide you to the best legal option to keep your child or children’s best interests as a top priority. Having a skilled family law attorney by your side when dealing with something as emotional as child custody decisions can make a big difference.