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Can I Take My Ex to Court for Custody Issues in North Carolina if They Live in a Different State?

These days, families are more complex than ever. When couples separate, it’s not uncommon for ex-spouses to live in different states. This gets complicated, however, when there are children and child custody issues involved. And when separated parents have different ideas about where the kids should live, the relationship and legal issues can get even more difficult.

As much as we’d like to believe that most problems can be worked out through honest communication, there are times when the only way to hold an ex accountable is through legal action. However, when conflicts cross state lines, taking your ex to family court becomes complicated, especially with kids involved. To learn more about taking your ex to court in North Carolina if they live in a different state, keep reading.

When Parents May Need to Take an Out-of-State Ex to Court

It’s not uncommon for parents to want or need to take an out-of-state ex to family court in North Carolina. Some common, real-life reasons include:

  • You want or need to change a custody order
  • You want your children to be closer to family
  • You want your kids to have access to better schools and a higher quality of life
  • The other parent has violated a custody order

There are plenty of reasons that you might need to take an ex to court, so if you don’t see your reason on the list, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! However, your ability to take your ex to court in North Carolina, versus the state they currently live in, depends on several factors.

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5 Things You Need to Know About Taking an Out-of-State Ex to Family Court for Custody

Taking an out-of-state ex to court for custody issues is no small endeavor. Here are five things you should know before you get started:

1. Interstate Issues Can Be Complicated

In 1997, 49 out of the 50 states adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA governs which state has jurisdiction over an initial filing of a child custody case, which state can modify a prior custody ruling, how to enforce a custody order from another state, and how emergency issues are handled. The one remaining state is Massachusetts. If you have an inter-state custody issue involving Massachusetts, you should contact a lawyer right away.

2. You Must File an Initial Custody Case in the Right State

Initial custody filings need to take place in the child’s “home state.” A child’s home state is the one they’ve been living in for at least six consecutive months before the case is filed. If the child recently moved, or the other parent is attempting to move them, you could run into difficulties.

3. You Can’t Relocate to Change a Custody Ruling

The UCCJEA states that if a custody order is issued in one state, that state retains jurisdiction as long as at least one parent remains in that state. The point of this provision of the law is to make it so that a parent cannot go to another state if they didn’t like the ruling in the first state. If neither the parent nor the child remains in the issuing state, then the state where the child has lived the past six months, the “home state,” has jurisdiction.

4. Moving Can’t Violate the Custody Order

Moving your child across state lines can be complicated. If there is a custody order in place, the move can’t make the custody arrangement unworkable. That would subject the moving parent to potential contempt. If this sounds like your situation, hiring an attorney is in the best interests of you and your child.

5. You Can Enforce the Custody Order in a Different State

There are provisions in the UCCJEA that allow for enforcement of a custody order in a state that is different than the issuing state. Under this process, an out-of-state custody order can be “registered” for enforcement. This would allow the new state to hear issues of contempt, but not grant the new state the ability to modify the custody order.

RELATED: How Do Courts Decide What’s in a Child’s Best Interests?

How a Family Law Attorney Can Help With Inter-State Conflict

Custody, divorce, and separation are rarely simple and easy. Navigating the process on your own can often take more time, cost more money, and compound the stress you and your family are already feeling. When you choose to work with an attorney, they can support you by:

  • Ensuring you file in the right court system
  • Supporting you by helping you prepare your claim correctly
  • Guiding you through the logistics of the process
  • Helping you develop a strategy to protect your family, including personal testimony
  • Gathering evidence to support your case
  • Preparing you for questioning from the judge
  • Making sure you understand your rights, options, and what to do next

We know how distressing custody claims can be, especially when parents live in different states. Myers Law Firm’s team has over 50 years of experience supporting clients through family law disputes, including custody issues. To learn more about your options, what to do next, and how our team can help, please reach out to us.

Supporting North Carolina Families for Over 50 Years

Myers Law Firm has a long track record of helping families overcome hurdles, including the toughest custody battles and other family conflicts. We’re ready to meet with you to help you understand your options and what to do next. Get started today by scheduling an initial consultation with one of our family law attorneys by calling our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or filling out our online contact form.

We look forward to hearing from you!


Justia. (2021). Interstate Child Custody. Justia.com. Retrieved from https://www.justia.com/family/child-custody-and-support/child-custody/interstate-child-custody/

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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