Are the laws for modifying a custody order the same in each state?
Each state has its own standard for modifying a custody order, usually found within the state custody law. In addition, there are laws about “jurisdiction,” which determine which state has the power (authority) to modify a custody order. The information below talks about the situation when you have a final child custody order from a state you used to live in, but now you have moved to a new state and you want to try to modify (change) the order in your new state’s court. The information provided is based on a law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which has been adopted (followed) by every state except for Massachusetts (and Puerto Rico). Massachusetts (but not Puerto Rico) currently follows an older law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), and the rules that we describe in the questions below may be slightly different if you live in one of those states. Please feel free to write to our Email Hotline with any related questions.
This issue is quite complicated and we strongly suggest that you get a lawyer to help you. Please go to our Finding a Lawyer page to find free and paid legal help. You also may contact the Legal Resource Center on Violence Against Women at 301-270-1550 for help finding if there has been a history of domestic abuse and you have a custody case involving more than one state.