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Can my ex-spouse modify our custody award in another state?

On Behalf of | Oct 15, 2021 | Custody, Parents Rights

By its very nature, divorce litigation is a contentious process, and one party or the other is likely to be disappointed by the final outcome. If you won custody of your children in your divorce, and your ex-spouse was unhappy about it, you might worry about the possibility of them bringing a challenge to the decree in another state where the divorce laws might favor them more. Can they do that? And if so, what can you do about it?

The UCCJEA

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a statute that nearly every state has adopted – including Minnesota. It governs how courts in one state treat child support and child custody arrangements from courts in a different state.

Under the Act, courts will respect and enforce another state’s judgments just like they enforce their own judgments. The UCCJEA also gives the original court that handed down the order exclusive continuing jurisdiction over the case, meaning that another state’s court cannot claim jurisdiction over the case.

In other words, once your divorce decree is finalized, your spouse will not be able to go to another state’s courts to have it modified – except under specific circumstances.

When another state’s courts can modify your order

Your home state’s exclusive jurisdiction will continue as long as you, your children or your ex-spouse have a significant connection with your home state. In other words, the only way that another state’s court could gain the jurisdiction required to modify your child custody or child support order is if you, your spouse and your children all moved out of your home state and had no other contacts with the state.

There are other ways to have significant contacts with a state besides having it as your principal domicile. If you have family members that you frequently visit, or if you visit the state frequently for work, a court could conclude that your contacts with the state are significant enough to maintain jurisdiction over your case.

It’s quite common for the parent who didn’t win custody or who has to pay child support to be extremely unhappy with the terms of the divorce. As long as you maintain a significant connection with the state where your divorce occurred, your ex-spouse will be unable to modify the divorce decree in another state’s courts.

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