Child custody is probably the single-most important element in a post-divorce world. To keep it going on an even keel is difficult enough when the parents reside in the same town, but when one of the parents lives in another state, a sticky situation could develop over custody.
The 150-mile rule
In the state of Wisconsin, child custody orders issued by the court include a section addressing the geographical area of residency; in other words, where the child may live with his custodial parent. It is set up for the benefit of the noncustodial parent to allow for appropriate parenting time. However, assume that this parent, the father, has been offered a job in another state. If he will be living across the state line or more than 150 miles away from where the child resides, he has to give specific notice to the other parent, who must respond within 15 days. An experienced family law attorney will tell you that in making this exchange, both parties are required to follow the statutes that pertain to the matter.
Issues quickly develop when a parent who resides in another state seeks to gain sole custody of a child who remains with the legally appointed custodial parent. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, which is followed in every state and the District of Columbia, sets the rules for courts to follow in making custody determination. The court is permitted to make such a decision if it can meet one of three tests:
- The state where custody determination is brought before the court is the home state of the child and he or she has resided there for at least six months
- There are significant connections for the child in that state, such as grandparents, teachers and doctors
- The child is present in the state because he or she has either been abandoned or because there exists the possibility of abuse or neglect if the child is returned to another state
Legal counsel is often required in sensitive child custody matters. One option is mediation, which is found to be very effective in resolving disagreement that flares up between parents who live in different states and who want to spend as much time as possible with their child.