Understanding Jurisdiction in Custody Cases
April 13, 2023
When determining child custody in a divorce involving minor children, issues often arise when the child’s parents live in different states. Essentially, the family court in the child’s home state will have jurisdiction over child custody matters. However, jurisdiction rights are not set in stone and can change over time. Understanding how jurisdiction works in custody cases is crucial.
At Middle Tennessee Family Law, our team is ready to advise and guide clients in legal matters involving jurisdiction in child custody cases. Our knowledgeable Tennessee family law attorney can work to understand your specific situation, enlighten you about your parental rights, and help determine the court that has jurisdiction over your child custody issue.
Our firm proudly serves clients in Franklin and throughout Middle Tennessee, including Murfreesboro and Nashville. Set up a simple one-on-one consultation today.
What Does Jurisdiction Mean in Child Custody Cases?
Jurisdiction can be described as the legal authority and power of a court to adjudicate a case, resolve a legal matter, or issue an order. It also refers to a territory within which a government agency or court is allowed to properly exercise its power. In a family law case, including divorce and child custody, the court is only allowed to preside over cases that are within its jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction in Tennessee Child Custody Cases
According to Tennessee law, a family law court in the state of Tennessee has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination only if:
Tennessee was the child’s home state on the date the proceeding commenced
Tennessee was the child’s home state within six (6) months prior to the commencement of the proceeding, the child is absent, but a parent or guardian still lives in the state
A court of another state doesn’t have jurisdiction or has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the grounds that a Tennessee court is more appropriate
All courts having jurisdiction have declined to exercise jurisdiction on the grounds that a Tennessee court is the more appropriate
No court of any other state has jurisdiction over the custody matter
An experienced attorney can enlighten you about how jurisdiction is determined in your child custody case and help you navigate crucial decisions.
How Is Jurisdiction Determined?
In a child custody case involving a jurisdiction dispute in Tennessee, jurisdiction may be determined using the following factors and analysis, in the order of priority:
The home state of a child can be described as the state where the child lived with a parent or someone acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months prior to the commencement of the child custody case. If Tennessee is discovered to be the child’s home state, a family court in Tennessee will have jurisdiction over the custody matter.
If there is no home state or the child’s home state declines jurisdiction, however, Tennessee courts will have jurisdiction over the child custody matters if the child and one or both parents or a person acting as a parent have significant connections to Tennessee. In addition, there must be significant evidence of personal relationships, providing care, training, and protection to the child by the parent in Tennessee to establish a significant connection.
Tennessee courts will have jurisdiction over the child custody matter if all courts having jurisdiction through the home state or significant connection defer to Tennessee and decline to exercise jurisdiction because Tennessee courts are more appropriate to handle the custody case.
If no other court has jurisdiction under the home state, significant connection, or deferral, Tennessee family courts may assume jurisdiction to determine child custody.
In a case involving child abandonment, abuse, or maltreatment, Tennessee family courts may assume emergency jurisdiction provided that the child is physically present in the state. Additionally, if Tennessee eventually becomes the child’s home state, the emergency jurisdiction order may become a permanent decree.
Can I Change the Jurisdiction of My Case?
Parental relocation may bring about the need to change jurisdiction in a child custody case. If the custodial parent and the child resided in Tennessee when the original custody decree was issued but moved to another state and lived in that state for six months or more, they may be eligible to change the jurisdiction by transferring the case to the family court in the new state.
In order to change the jurisdiction, the requesting parent—with the help of a family law attorney—will file a petition to transfer the child custody case to the new state. The available options include the following:
Filing a motion seeking transfer in the old state, or
Filing a motion to enroll a foreign decree in the new state
A seasoned Tennessee child custody attorney can enlighten you about the legal processes involved, help file your petition, and make sure you follow all procedural requirements.
Seek Experienced Legal Guidance Today
A divorce involving minor children usually involves high stakes, including child custody matters and jurisdiction disputes. The laws and rules addressing jurisdiction over child custody cases can be quite complex. That’s why consulting with an experienced divorce attorney is crucial for detailed guidance.
At Middle Tennessee Family Law, we’re committed to guiding clients through these complicated procedures. Whether you want to understand how jurisdiction is determined in your child custody matter or change jurisdiction upon relocating to another state, our attorney can guide you through the legal steps involved from start to finish. We will work intelligently to address your child custody and jurisdiction matters effectively.
Contact us at Middle Tennessee Family Law today to schedule an initial consultation with a family law attorney. Our lawyer can offer you the personalized legal counsel and no-nonsense advocacy you need to navigate key decisions in your child custody case. We proudly serve clients in Franklin and throughout Middle Tennessee, including Murfreesboro and Nashville.