Children looking out the car window

Interstate Child Custody

How do multiple state residencies impact a child custody case?

Living in different states presents unique challenges to parents filing for custody or seeking modification to an existing order.

The Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt in Arlington and Southlake, TX, can help you negotiate and reach the best possible solution.

Interstate Child Custody Basics

In most child custody cases the parents and children all live in the same state. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes children are born to unmarried parents who do not share the same state of residence. In other cases, a parent may want to move out of state after a divorce.

While every family's circumstances are unique, multiple state residencies generally add a layer of complexity to child custody. Interstate custody is a specific area of family law that aims to resolve these custody issues.  

Family Law Is Our Specialty

While it is possible to represent yourself in family legal matters, it is not recommended, especially for interstate child custody. Make the process easier on yourself and your family by working with an attorney.

Donna J. Smiedt has been a board-certified Family Law Attorney by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 1991. She has dedicated her career to helping clients with complex family law litigation, including divorce and child custody cases.

Donna J. Smiedt and the team of legal professionals at our Arlington firm understand how stressful these matters can be. We strive to reduce that burden and help you achieve a manageable resolution. If you are looking to file for child custody please contact our office and speak to a lawyer about your situation. 

The team at The Family Law Firm of Donna J Smiedt
The Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt serves clients throughout Arlington, Southlake, and Westover Hills, TX, with compassion and understanding.

Speak to A Child Custody
Attorney Today

Our family law practice is centrally located between Dallas and Fort Worth, TX, serving clients at the heart of the metroplex. Find out how we can help you by scheduling a consultation at our law offices in Arlington or Southlake. You can reach us online or by calling:

(817) 572-9900

"We hired Donna Smiedt to handle a very contentious child custody case in 2010. From the day we signed on to have Donna represent us we have received excellent representation and results. Donna has represented us well and listened to all of our needs and requests. Donna was professional and reassured us that our case would be taken care of. My wife and I can not say enough good things about Donna and her personal attention to a stressful matter..." Ed McKiernan, 5-Star Reviews

Interstate Child Custody Laws Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

To simplify interstate child custody matters, the majority of the country (all states except for Massachusetts) abides by The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. These uniform regulations help determine which state has jurisdiction over your child custody case. 

Why Does State Jurisdiction Matter?

If you are looking to file or have already been through a divorce you likely know that state laws can play an important role in the outcome. The same applies to child custody. Each state has slightly different legislation which can impact your share of custody, visitation rights, and child support.

One of the intentions of the UCCJEA is to prevent parents from moving out of state in an attempt to relitigate a custody order. If the parents lived in the same state when the divorce or initial custody action was filed, that state will continue to exercise jurisdiction over the case. The state maintains jurisdiction until neither the child nor parents reside there or have a significant connection to the state.

Lady Liberty holding justice scales with Texas flag in the background

Which State Has Jurisdiction Over My Case?

While the UCCJEA provides a framework to determine the state of jurisdiction, this question gets more confusing when parents and children have lived in multiple states. To avoid wasting time and money filing for child custody in the wrong state, you should speak to a qualified family lawyer. We can take a look at your case and help guide you through the proper legal proceedings. 

"Donna has represented my son in a child custody case and my wife and I in a grandparents custody case and she has done a masterful job. I don't know where my grandchildren would be without Donna. She has given them a chance to have a much better life and a chance to be loved and grow into well rounded adults. Donna is a very caring person that really looks out for the benefit of children and her clients." Jerry Johnston, 5-Star Review

Relocating With Child Custody

While parents are free to move without restriction, Texas law prevents the relocation of a child. Typically, a parent with primary custody can move as far as a county adjacent to the one where they received their initial determination. Beyond that, you will need the permission of the court.

In most cases, the court does not allow the relocation of a child if the move will affect the other parent's right to custody or visitation.  Exceptions can be made to the Texas child custody relocation laws if the move is in the child's best interests, for example, access to better medical care or education in the other state. However, this is a matter the court takes very seriously and does not grant lightly.

Judge with gavel

Moving a Child Out Of State

If you believe you have a valid reason for moving out of state with custody of your child, it is important to follow all the appropriate legal steps. Failure to do so can result in fines, criminal charges, and even jail time. The legal process usually begins with mediation:
In most cases, the court does not allow the relocation of a child if the move will affect the other parent's right to custody or visitation.
In most cases, the court does not allow the relocation of a child if the move will affect the other parent's right to custody or visitation.


It is possible to resolve a relocation dispute outside of court when both parents agree to mediation. Our attorneys can help with these negotiations and propose potential terms that are agreeable for both parties. For example, an increase in visitation may be acceptable in exchange for permission to move.

Court Hearing

If parents cannot come to a solution through mediation, the petition moves to a court hearing. The court will take into consideration several factors such as the reason for the move, the effect it may have on the child, and connections the child has to their home state and the state of the proposed relocation.


The court's decision is primarily based on the best interests of the child. If relocation has the potential to negatively impact their wellbeing or their relationship with either parent, it is unlikely that permission will be granted. However, it is possible to prove that moving out of state is both valid and beneficial for the child. 

Turn to Us for Support

The Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt assists clients in the greater Southlake, Westover Hills, and Arlington, TX, areas with these types of serious custody modifications. Whether you want to petition a case for moving out of state or object to the relocation of your child, our attorneys can fight for your custodial rights. We are advocates for both parents' and children's best interests and want to help you reach a fair solution. 

Contact our Arlington firm today to speak to a family lawyer. You can reach us online or by calling:

(817) 572-9900

"I’ve hired Donna and her team for multiple child custody cases. She’s been nothing but kind, caring, honest, and professional during these extremely emotional and stressful times in my life. She always makes me feel like I’m her only client, and puts me at ease with her abilities and knowledge of the law. She’s won every case for me and I don’t know what I would have done without her and excellent team of paralegals and attorneys. She definitely gets the job done and more!! I highly recommend her for any family law issues." Lindsey Hogue, 5-Star Reviews

Registering Your Out-of-State Order

To ensure the courts in Texas enforce your out-of-state custody order, you must officially file for registration. This not only protects the initial determination but gives both parents peace of mind when sharing custody across state lines. The same applies if you received your initial determination in Texas and want the order recognized in another state.

It is important to understand that registration in a different state does not transfer the jurisdiction. It simply gives the state court the information it needs to take action in the event the terms of your order are violated. If you have an out-of-state child custody order that you want to enforce in the state of Texas, contact our Arlington attorneys for help with proper registration. 

Parental Abduction

If your child is removed to another state without your permission, you should notify law enforcement officers and contact our Arlington firm to learn more about your legal options. Depending on the circumstances, the parent responsible could face several criminal charges. At the very least, the action is in violation of your custody order. You are well within your rights to request post-judgment modification to your existing custody arrangement if needed to protect your child. 

Mental Health Professionals
Can Offer Unparalleled Advice

Sometimes a child custody case is necessary when one or both of the parents are struggling with a mental illness. We can bring in mental health professionals to offer advice and guide the process towards a successful outcome.

We've worked with mental health professionals in many interstate custody cases, including one where the child's grandmother was granted custody from the child's mother, who had bipolar disorder and was unmedicated.  

Woman talking to mental health professional

Get Help From A Family Attorney 

If you are confused by any of these interstate child custody laws or court proceedings, you are not alone. Sharing custody across state lines is no simple matter. When you and your child's other parent live in different states, you need the help of a child custody attorney.

Donna J. Smiedt has been practicing family law for over 30 years and is qualified to handle these complicated situations. We will answer your questions, explain your options, and ensure your custodial rights are protected. We serve clients throughout the Dallas and Fort Worth area, including Southlake and Westover Hills.

the team at The Family Law Firm of Donna J Smiedt

The Family Law Firm of Donna J Smiedt

The Family Law Firm of Donna J Smiedt is the premier destination for clients who need representation during a divorce, adoption, or other family law matters. Donna J. Smiedt has been in practice since 1986 and is a Board Certified Family Law Attorney – Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Her other professional affiliations include:

  • Texas Bar College
  • Arlington Bar Association
  • Tarrant County Bar Association
  • Texas Academy of Family Law Specialists

To schedule a consultation at our Arlington or Southlake, TX, law firm, contact us online or call (817) 572-9900.

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