Interstate Child Custody and Placement Disputes

In today’s mobile society, it is common for placement issues to arise between parents who reside in different states. The first question to be answered in these disputes is: Which state has authority, or jurisdiction, to hear the case and resolve the dispute?

In Wisconsin, that question is answered in Wis. Stats. Chapter 822, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). This uniform Act, adopted in every state except Massachusetts, has eliminated the confusing, contradictory rules that often resulted in multiple contradictory orders. A note about terminology: The UCCJEA uses the term “physical custody” to mean what we in Wisconsin term “physical placement” pursuant to Wis. Stats. Sec. 767.001(5). For simplicity, this webpage subsection uses the UCCJEA term “physical custody.”

The UCCJEA determines jurisdiction and procedures under three different circumstances. The first is initial child custody jurisdiction: Which state has jurisdiction the first time a child custody dispute comes before any court. The second is continuing jurisdiction – which state has authority to modify an existing child custody order. Finally, the enforcement provisions specify the procedures for enforcing a child custody order from another state.

Note that while these complex rules govern child custody, a different set of complex rules governs interstate child support disputes under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. It is not uncommon for parents to have to litigate a child custody dispute in one state and a child support dispute in another state.

During your free consultation, the attorneys at Wessel, Lehker & Fumelle can walk you through the rules that apply to your circumstances and help you determine whether Wisconsin is an appropriate forum for your case.