Military Relocation: Does Tennessee Have Jurisdiction in my Child Custody Case?
As every military family knows, when the U.S. Government tells you to move: you move. Military families have somewhat of a reputation for their transient nature. The requirement to be okay with picking up and moving every few years is simply a reality for so many service members and their families.
This requirement to move frequently presents a different kind of issue when it becomes necessary to renegotiate your family structure. If you are seeking a divorce and/or child custody arrangement you will need to bring the matter to the attention of the court that holds you under their “jurisdiction.” But what does this really mean for families who move frequently as a result of military service? This article aims to give you the information you need to get started on your path forward.
What is “Jurisdiction”?
“Jurisdiction” is a legal term that refers to the interest a court holds in overseeing a legal proceeding. If a court does not have an established interest or jurisdiction over a case then they will be unable to hear the case. Even if a divorce is filed in their court, they will not be able to hear it.
The concept of jurisdiction is in place to help ensure that only courts with legitimate interest in the case can process the case. This prevents one spouse from filing suit in a faraway state, for example, simply to inconvenience the other spouse or make it too difficult for them to actively participate in the proceedings.
However, the concept of jurisdiction can be confusing and even inconvenient for military families. For example, say that a couple was married in West Virginia, was stationed in various states and established households through the years in Washington, Virginia, and Florida, and decided to divorce after their recent move to Tennessee. With so many moves and various factors in play, how do military families determine which court holds jurisdiction over their child custody case?
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
The Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was enacted by the Federal Government and applies in all fifty states. The act implements policies and procedures to be observed in certain situations, and often plays a role in custody actions undertaken by military families.
One way the law seeks to help military families is by implementing set rules surrounding how to quantify which state will serve as a child’s “home state” in the case of custody actions. Usually, the child’s home state, where jurisdiction to hear a custody case will fall, will be the location where the child lived, consecutively, for the six months preceding the filed case.
The law is nuanced, and seeking the advice of an experienced professional attorney on the specifics of your case is always the best course of action. This is particularly true in cases where a family finds themselves “in-between” two jurisdictions who might, reasonably, claim jurisdiction. In complex situations it is especially important to seek the expertise of an attorney as you move forward to ensure you pursue and manage your case in the best possible way.
Contact Fort, Holloway & Rogers
The experienced Franklin child custody lawyers at Fort, Holloway & Rogers understand the stress that comes with renegotiating your family structure. Our dedicated team can help you navigate through the processes to come, and help ensure you land with your best foot forward. Contact our office to discuss your case with an experienced attorney.