For divorced or unmarried parents living in separate states, navigating child custody arrangements can be difficult. The reasons are varied, perhaps one parent moved to another state for work, or a parent wished to be closed to extended family after the divorce. Regardless of the reasons for the separation, parenting over long distances and across state lines poses unique challenges.
Shared duties across state lines
In Colorado, parenting duties are generally split between both parents. This joint responsibility approach allows the child to grow and develop under the positive influence of both parents. But when parents live in a separate state and share custody, factors such as the cost of travel and frequency of visitation need to be considered.
The age and needs of the child are the main focus. It can be stressful for children, especially young children, to be separated from the primary care giver for long periods. When creating an interstate custody arrangement, ensure the child is ready for the travel and distance of the arrangement.
Understanding the UCCJEA
In Colorado, and every other state except Massachusetts and Vermont, child custody is governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA provides standards for states to use when determining jurisdiction for child custody cases, bringing uniformity to interstate cases. When determining jurisdiction, the UCCJEA uses the following considerations.
· The state is the child’s home state: In order to meet the home state requirements the child must have lived with a parent in the state for at least six months or lived in the state previously until removed by a parent.
· The child has significant connections in the state: The connections can include extended family, teachers, friends and other care givers.
· The child is in the state for safety reasons: This applies when the child was removed from another state for safety reasons.
If a state cannot meet the above requirements the state court cannot issue a child custody judgment, even if the child is currently in the state. If more than one state can meet the requirements, it becomes a first come first served situation since only one state can issue a child custody judgment. Also, if a parent has wrongfully removed or retained the child in order to meet home state requirements that parent will be denied custody.
Using technology to stay connected
With the evolution of webcams, cell phones capable of video calls and other forms of virtual communication, staying connected has never been easier. Virtual visitation is the act of using technology and web camera devices to increase interaction between a parent and child. Apps like Skype and FaceTime allow the parent and child to both see and speak to one another, great for long distance relationships.
While the state of Colorado has not yet adopted virtual visitation into custody arrangements, the practice is still recognized as beneficial by family law courts. Keep in mind, virtual visitation is meant to supplement in-person time with a parent, not replace it.
Interstate child custody disputes have the potential for problems, but thorough consideration of possible challenges upfront can alleviate many problems before they happen. No matter where you reside, remember your primary concern should be the best interests of your child.