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Which state court can make decisions about custody?

If you as a Minnesota resident share custody of a child with a parent who lives in Wisconsin or vice versa, you might worry over which state has authority over your custody agreement. This is one area where federal law provides some guidance thanks to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

According to FindLaw, the UCCJA describes a threefold test for determining the state that can make rulings in a custody arrangement. Each of these three steps may act as the decisive factor that informs whether Minnesota or Wisconsin will have jurisdiction to rule in your child custody case.

The state is your child’s home state

According to the UCCJA, the court that rules in your custody case should be in the home state of your child. Your child’s home state is where your child resided with you or the other parent for six months before any legal action in your case occurred. Alternatively, your child may be a resident of a state but is currently absent because you or the other parent took the child from the state.

The child has connections to the state

As a second test, the UCCJA requires courts to look at whether your child has strong relationships to the people residing in a state. Your child may have some or all of the following state connections:

  • Your child’s teachers and/or school is in the state
  • Your child has relatives like grandparents in the state
  • Your child receives medical treatment in the state
  • Many if not all of your child’s friends reside in the state

All of these indicate that your child has ties to the community and could help legitimize the courts in that state to make decisions regarding your child’s custody.

The state provides safety

In more serious situations, a child may have to leave one state for another because the parent neglects or abuses the child. So if you needed to relocate your child to either Minnesota or Wisconsin due to safety issues, the court in the new location should have authority to rule on custody.

None of the tests apply

Ideally, a state would meet at least one of these tests but sometimes this does not happen or a state does qualify but refuses to claim jurisdiction over a case. Though this can make your custody case more complicated, it may still open the way for your home state to assert authority over your case if the state where your co-parent lives declines to do so.