Handling a Custody or Divorce Case that Spans Multiple States

Divorce or child custody cases that involve multiple states can have an added layer of complexity, making it all the more important to handle such cases carefully.

Custody or divorce cases where the parties or children live in multiple states present some unique challenges and opportunities.  Often, the first question is which state or states can possibly have jurisdiction over the case.  Sometimes, there is a clear answer.  For example, if a couple resides in Iowa with their children and has done so for the last five years, and it is only yesterday that one of the parents moved out and setup residency in Illinois, then it is an Iowa case.  However, many other cases are not as clear-cut, such as a situation where one parent lives in Illinois, the other parent lives in Iowa, and the child or children have been living equally with both parents for years.

In some cases, jurisdiction may exist in one state but that will soon change by virtue of the amount of time that a child has resided in a particular state after a move has occurred.  That too is complicated by matters such as whether there has been a court case before involving that child and the parties, whether the removal from one state to another was expressly authorized by any such court that had jurisdiction, and other related factors.

Custody and divorce laws also vary state-by-state, and those differences can have a significant affect upon the outcome of the case.  For example, the factors that the courts in Iowa use to determine which parent should be awarded physical care of a child are similar to but not identical to the factors that the courts in Illinois apply to reach such a determination.  The same is true as to other issues within cases, such as spousal support and property distribution.  Even procedural matters, such as discovery, will vary state by state.

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In sum, a custody or divorce case that involves multiple states makes the case more legally complex.  Those with such a case are well advised to seek counsel who is familiar with the ins and outs of cases that span more than one state.