Determining child custody when you and your ex-spouse live in different states can be a challenge. One parent relocating to a different state after a divorce or legal separation, however, is not uncommon. If you or your ex has moved across state lines or plans on doing so soon, you will need to understand Washington’s laws for interstate custody agreements.
An interstate custody agreement is a legal document that sets a schedule for parenting time between two parents who live in different states. This type of agreement is necessary to establish custody in a divorce case in Washington when the parent lives in a different state. An interstate custody agreement can look many different ways depending on the scenario:
The amount of visitation with the noncustodial parent will depend on the family’s situation and the best interest of the child. When a divorce case involves an interstate custody agreement and long-distance parenting, it should include information about how the child will travel, such as whether the child will travel by plane or car, whether the other parent will accompany the child, and who will pay for the travel.
In 1979, Washington State adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, which was updated to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) in 2001 to clarify enforcement. This is one of the main laws that will affect an interstate custody agreement.
The UCCJEA creates a “home state,” which will most likely receive jurisdiction over the interstate custody case. A child’s home state is where he or she lived with a parent for at least six consecutive months prior to the custody case being filed. If the child’s home state is Washington, for example, the custody case will rely on Washington’s child custody laws.
A state can also receive jurisdiction to make a child custody decision if the child has important ties to people living in that state, such as family members, teachers and doctors. Finally, if the child is residing in a state for safety reasons, this will also make it the home state.
Once your home state has been established under the rules of the UCCJEA, you can proceed with a child custody case. You or your lawyer can file your petition to start the case, which will then be served on your spouse in his or her resident state. You will have the chance to work out your own interstate parenting plan together before your case goes to court.
The easiest way to create this type of parenting plan is with assistance from a professional. You can try using software, attempt mediation or hire an attorney. If you and your ex are struggling to compromise or agree on the terms of your interstate custody agreement, you may need help from a child custody attorney in Clark County.
A lawyer can guide you through mediation and come up with creative solutions for sharing custody across state lines. If you and your ex cannot agree on a parenting plan, you may need a lawyer to represent you during a child custody hearing in Washington. It can be especially important to hire an attorney when you have a complicated case, such as one involving a parent in a different state.
To discuss child custody in more detail at no cost or obligation, request a free consultation at Cohen Family Law, LLC. We can help you understand your rights as a parent during an interstate custody case.