A custody battle is difficult enough without having difficult procedural issues. Often times, one parent will move outside of Louisiana with a minor child. In the alternative, a parent may move to Louisiana with a minor child against the other parent’s wishes. One of the first questions presented to a party in a custody case will be “Does Louisiana even have jurisdiction to hear the custody arguments?”
In 1978, Louisiana enacted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act to provide guidance and rules for these scenarios.
When will Louisiana courts agree to preside over a custody proceeding involving two states?
La. R.S. 13:1813 provides that Louisiana WILL make an initial child custody determination ONLY IF one of the following requirements are met:
Louisiana is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the custody proceeding, or was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the proceeding and a parent, (or person acting as a parent) still lives in this state.
“Home state" means the state in which a child lived with a parent, or a person acting as a parent, for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding.
A court of another state does not have jurisdiction, OR a court of the home state has declined jurisdiction AND there are significant connections with the State of Louisiana and there is substantial evidence in the State of Louisiana.
When will Louisiana courts decline to preside over a custody proceeding involving two states?
Louisiana courts can also decline to exercise jurisdiction over a custody hearing if it finds that Louisiana would be an “inconvenient forum” under the circumstances and that a court of another state is a more appropriate forum. The courts will generally consider the following factors to decide whether to decline jurisdiction:
Did domestic violence occur? Is domestic violence likely to continue in the future? Which state will best protect the parties and the child?
The length of time the child has resided outside of the state.
The distance between the court in this state and the court that will assume jurisdiction over the custody hearing.
The financial circumstances of the parties.
Any agreements between the parties as to which state should assume jurisdiction.
The nature and location of evidence.
The ability of the court of each state to decide the issue expeditiously.
The familiarity of the court of each state to decide the issues expeditiously.
Obviously, the facts for each case will be of paramount importance to what happens in the custody jurisdiction arguments. Usually, one parent will strongly desire to have one state preside over the custody hearing, while the other parent wants a different state to preside over the hearing. This initial argument will have longstanding repercussions for the custody case, the parents, and ultimately the child. As such, in these scenarios it is in the parties best interests to, at a minimum, have a consultation with an experienced custody lawyer to discuss the best course of action and to determine how the law applies to your particular set of facts.