Which State Has Jurisdiction For Custody Modifications If I Have Moved?

advice on divorceQuestion:

I am looking for an alimony and child custody modification but am unsure which state has jurisdiction to proceed.

I currently live in another state from where our divorced was filed. My ex-wife and children continue to live in that state.

Could I get a change of venue so that the state I live in would have jurisdiction to handle my child custody and alimony modification procedures or do I have to go through the courts in the state where we got divorced?


This answer only includes general divorce help for men since I am only licensed to practice in Oklahoma and am thus unable to provide financial advice on divorce based on the laws in your state.

As a rule, once a court has established jurisdiction over parties to a divorce, that court retains jurisdiction absent facts showing that it would be more properly addressed by another state.  This is called continuing exclusive jurisdiction.

Federal law also comes into play as well if you’re dealing with child custody and child support and provides very specific rules regarding continuing exclusive jurisdiction and modification. As a result, it is likely that if your divorce was in another state, that state’s court is going to try to hold on to your case.

Further, only certain terms of the divorce can be modified, i.e., financial issues such as alimony, child custody, and child support.

Divorce Resources:

State Divorce Laws

With regard to alimony, unfortunately, most states are prohibited under federal law from modifying an alimony award issued by another state that has continuing exclusive jurisdiction over the order establishing the alimony. If you are hoping to change the alimony terms in your decree, you will likely have to go through the original state.

With regard to child custody and visitation, it’s likely the original state would also have continuing exclusive jurisdiction for purposes of modifying these terms under federal law until:

1) that state’s court determines that neither the child, the child and one parent, nor the child and a person acting as a parent have  a significant connection with the state and that substantial evidence is no longer available in the state concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships; or

2) a court in either state determines that neither the child, the child’s parent, nor any person acting as a parent reside in the original state at the time a modification action is filed.

As you can see, it’s an uphill battle trying to move a case that’s already been finalized from one state to another. It’s very important that you seek the assistance of a skilled divorce attorney as you move forward.

To set up an appointment with a Cordell and Cordell mens divorce attorney, including Oklahoma City Divorce Lawyer Christian D. Barnard, please contact Cordell & Cordell.

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