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Understanding the "home state" concept

After making the decision to split from their spouses, many may decide to move away from Los Angeles to an entirely new state. Such a decision may prove beneficial in helping them move on in their personal lives, yet it can also further complicate the already complex issue of child custody. When divorcing parents are living in separate states, the question of which state has jurisdiction over their custody case will almost inevitably come up. 

In 1997, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing clarity on legislative issues that cross state jurisdictions created the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. This proposed statute established rules regarding who should rule on multi-jurisdictional child custody cases. Since its creation, 48 states have adopted the standards created by the Act (California being one of them). 

The UCCJEA recognizes the state that has jurisdiction of such cases as the one which can meet the following criteria: 

  • The one that has legal claim to being a child's home state
  • The one in which the child has significant connections
  • The one in which the child resides for safety reasons

If no one state can meet any of the aforementioned criteria, then the state a child involved in a custody case is currently living in is considered to be his or her home state. 

California sets its own standard when determining if it should be considered a child's home state. Section 3402(g) of the California Family Code says that if a child has been living in the state (with a parent or guardian) for at least six consecutive months prior to the initiation of custody proceedings, then it is his or her home state. Temporary absences for vacations, to receive healthcare treatment, or even brief periods of visitation do not interrupt this time period. 

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