In most cases, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act will determine how an interstate custody case will be handled. For instance, if a child lives in California, the courts in that state generally have jurisdiction because it is the child's home state. The home state is where a child has lived with a parent for at least six months before legal action takes place.
A state may also qualify as a child's home state if that child is a resident there but is absent because a parent removed him or her. However, another state court may have authority if the child has significant relationships with a parent, teacher or doctor there. A state court may also have jurisdiction if a child is in that state for safety reasons.
If there is more than one state that can claim jurisdiction in a case, the court that makes the initial ruling is generally considered to have asserted jurisdiction. That ruling will be considered binding as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act says that only one state can make a decision on a custody matter. If a parent wrongfully removes a child from his or her home state, that parent may be denied custody of that child.
Those who are engaged in a child custody dispute may wish to consult with an attorney. It may be possible to compel the other parent to comply with terms of a parenting plan or child custody order. It may be possible to reduce or eliminate a parent's right to have custody or visitation with a child if he or she has been illegally moved to another state. However, contact with a child may still be allowed if it is deemed to be in that child's best interest.