Jurisdictional Challenges in Multistate Family Law Cases

When Family Law Matters Span Multiple States, it is Important to Work With a Local Attorney Well-Versed in the State’s Legal Intricacies.

Concerns About Family Matters Crossing NJ State Lines

Jurisdictional Dynamics in Divorce Proceedings Across States

Each state has requirements regarding residency and divorce. Some states have more strict rules regarding proof of residency than others. New Jersey’s residency requirements for those wishing to obtain a divorce or annulment are minimal but specific. For a couple to file for divorce in New Jersey, at least one partner must have resided in the state for at least one year. The one-year period must be immediately before the divorce is filed. The case will be dismissed if neither party has lived in New Jersey for at least a year just before the filing. The New Jersey courts do not have jurisdiction over a matter whose participants have not resided in the state. If one or both parties have not lived in New Jersey for the minimum amount of time required before filing for divorce, they are not eligible for a divorce within the state. There is an exception to this rule in cases of a fault divorce on the grounds of adultery. Either party only needs to be a bona fide state resident, even if they have been a resident for less than a year.

Whichever spouse files first in their state is usually where the jurisdiction lies. Filing for divorce first lets you have a logistically convenient location and a local lawyer.

Jurisdictional Rules for Custody under UCCJEA

According to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), if the child has significant ties to the state by living with a parent or guardian for six months running, the UCCJEA would give jurisdiction to the New Jersey courts. It doesn’t matter if the other parent is a resident of another state; the legal decisions regarding child custody and visitation disputes will be settled in New Jersey.

Planning a Move Across State Lines with a Custody Matter?

In 2017, New Jersey changed its standards for relocation based on the case of Bisbing v. Bisbing. Jaime and Glenn Bisbing had twin daughters who were seven years of age at the time of the ruling. Jaime, as the PPR (Primary Parent of Residence) decided to remarry and move to where her new husband resided in Utah. Glenn and Jaime’s divorce settlement indicated that neither parent would move out of state without the consent of the other. The trial court ruled that as long as Jaime demonstrated that her move was in good faith, it would not have a negative effect on the girls, and she was buttressed by the reason for the move. The court ruled in her favor with the condition that the custody agreement be changed in a way that allowed the girls’ father to continue visitation.

Glenn appealed, and the Appellate Division reversed the previous court’s decision, citing that the children’s best interests should be considered and that Jaime had negotiated the child custody agreement in bad faith.

There are two options for a parent moving out of state with their children. The first is to file a motion with the Family Court and get permission to move out of state. The second is to negotiate with the other parent to obtain their consent for the move. The consent agreement should be in writing and indicate how visits and communication with the children will be addressed (FaceTime, text messaging, email, etc.). The agreement should also stipulate how the children’s travel costs will be paid.

Ending or Transferring Jurisdiction Between States when Circumstances Change in a Custody Case

You can request the original court that has jurisdiction over your case and ask for a change of jurisdiction when the judge finds that they no longer have jurisdiction because there are no ties or evidence regarding the children in that state. Another possibility is that the judge considers the new state a more “convenient forum” to hear the case. The last possibility is that the custody case is over, either because the children are no longer minors, none of their parents reside in the state, or the children no longer live in the state.

Issues in Interstate Child Support Support Cases

New Jersey law presumes that if a man and woman are married and a child is born during their relationship, the husband is the biological father. If either non-custodial parent leaves the state and doesn’t support the child, actions can be taken in the New Jersey courts. If New Jersey is the child’s home state, meaning they have lived there for at least six consecutive months, and at least one parent lives in the state, it is considered the child’s home state. If a child is younger than six months, the courts consider the state where they have lived since birth as their home state.

If the child’s family moved to another state and later returned to New Jersey, a judge would determine whether the time spent out of state was temporary and give jurisdiction to the New Jersey courts. If there is no home state, the next step is to determine where the child has a significant connection to the state. This can be where the child has many relatives, goes to school, participates in community events, etc.

Challenges of Working with a Multistate Family Lawyer

Lawyers are licensed to practice in the state in which they work. Each state has its own licensing system, and practicing law without a license is against it. If a client has a relationship with a lawyer they trust and want them to represent their side in another state, their lawyer must petition the court in their client’s state for permission. The court may grant permission pro hac vice, which means it is for a particular matter only. Sometimes, the court will require that the multistate lawyer work with a state resident lawyer. The local attorney can be relied on to inform the out-of-state attorney of state laws.

One of the main problems with a multistate family lawyer could be unfamiliarity with the visiting state’s specific rules, laws, or statutes. The lawyer must rely on a local attorney to ensure the proper procedures are followed. Another difficulty is communication. Lawyers are busy, and playing phone tag or texting back and forth can be frustrating and unproductive.

Experienced Attorneys Handling Jurisdictional Challenges in Multistate Family Law

Determine What to do Where in a Multistate Family Matter with Assistance from our New Jersey Family Law Team

Getting a divorce is complicated enough without adding child custody disputes or other issues across state lines. We know that you want what is best for your children and your future. Rebuilding a home and an environment that feels comfortable and secure is a worthwhile challenge, and you may not know what to do next if your family law case spans multiple states.

Our family law attorneys at Bronzino Law Firm will listen to your unique situation and discuss all of your options in Toms River, Howell, Rumson, Freehold, Point Pleasant, Middletown, Manalapan, and towns throughout Monmouth and Ocean County. With almost 15 years of family law experience, we are excellent negotiators and litigators. Our job is to ensure your rights are respected and that the decisions you make for yourself and your children are made a reality. However, the first vital step is knowing which state has jurisdiction over your case.

If you are considering filing for divorce or are experiencing custody issues in a case involving multiple states, one being New Jersey, call us today at (732) 812-3102 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.