Typically, a parent will file for child custody in the child's home state. This is generally the state where the child has lived with a parent or guardian for the past six months. For instance, if a child lived with his or her mother in Texas, the father would file for custody in Texas. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
For instance, the home state of a child who is less than six months old is his or her birth state. It should also be noted that brief absences from a state may not have any bearing on the six-month rule. If a parent moves to a new state, he or she may need to wait six months before filing a custody claim in that state. In the event that a court in another state has already made a ruling, that state may be the child's home state regardless of other circumstances.
If multiple states are involved, federal law may determine when and how an individual can file for custody. Parents of children who are subject to abuse may ask for emergency custody under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act . Every state except Massachusetts follows it, and Massachusetts has a slightly modified version of the law.
Those who are seeking legal custody of a child may wish to consult with an attorney. In most cases, a custody order will be made that is in the best interests of the child. Therefore, both parents may have visitation or custody rights regardless of how they feel about each other. Legal counsel may be able to help a parent determine which state to file a claim or whether the child is eligible for an emergency custody order.