Which state has jurisdiction to decide child custody?

divorce attorney Jill DuffyQuestion:

My wife currently lives in another state with my daughter, and I would like a divorce.

Which state has jurisdiction to decide child custody? The state I have lived in (Michigan) or the state my wife and daughter currently reside?


In order to file for divorce in Michigan you must have lived in the state of Michigan for at least 180 days, and in the county in which you chose to file for at least 10 days, prior to filing the Complaint for Divorce. In Michigan, the state in which you were married has no bearing on where you can file for divorce.

The issues in your case are whether the court will have personal jurisdiction over your wife, and whether Michigan is the proper forum to hear a child custody dispute for your case.

In order to have personal jurisdiction (authority to make binding orders on a person), your wife must have some connection to Michigan. If your wife has a residence in Michigan, or frequently conducts business here, Michigan courts may have authority to issue binding orders upon her. In addition to having personal jurisdiction, you must properly serve the summons and complaint upon your wife by personal service or registered mail.

Decisions regarding interstate custody in Michigan fall under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). This act controls the issue of which state, of two competing states, has the authority to make “an initial custody determination” with regard to any child involved in a proceeding, including divorce. The UCCJEA looks for the child’s “home state.”

A home state is a state in which a child has lived continuously for 6 months or more immediately preceding a custody action. If your daughter has lived in Colorado for over six months, the Michigan court may not have authority to decide a custody issue in your case.

Although I practice law in Michigan, I cannot give you legal advice without thoroughly reviewing your case. Do not rely on this information as establishing an attorney-client relationship. Contact an attorney immediately for assistance. Cordell & Cordell does represent clients in Michigan. Thank you for submitting your question.


Jill A. Duffy is an Associate Attorney in the Troy, Mich., office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in the state of Michigan. Ms. Duffy received her BA in Psychology and Spanish and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Oakland University. She received her Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

End of Content Icon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *