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Indiana Interstate Custody Lawyers

Indiana's UCCJA Explained

Indiana’s Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) guides parents and courts on which state should have the legal authority to decide child custody or visitation issues when the parents live in different states, one of which is Indiana. These questions arise more frequently as it becomes more common to find parents residing in different states after parting ways.

Whether the separation arises after a paternity determination or a divorce, distance can breed additional problems between co-parents. With each parent living in a different state, these parents need interstate custody lawyers who can fight to keep the case where the law best serves the parent’s custody rights and the child’s best interests.

The Indiana interstate custody lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have the experience and litigation skills you need to succeed in your interstate child custody matter. With extensive knowledge and understanding of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), Indiana’s version of the UCCJEA, our Indiana interstate custody attorneys are ready to help you keep the case on home turf and protect your custody rights and your child’s best interests.

Contact Keffer Hirschauer LLP at (317) 202-1163 to get started on your case with a free consultation.


Why Working with Interstate Custody Lawyers is Critical

The vast majority of states, including Indiana, have passed a uniform law to guide courts deciding child custody or parenting time disputes between parents living in different states: the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJA, the uniform law passed by Indiana, helps facilitate the resolution of custody cases by determining which state has the authority to decide the matter.

Specifically, the UCCJA establishes a procedure for determining whether Indiana or another state has the authority, called subject matter jurisdiction, to decide the parties’ custody dispute. The UCCJA also sets forth a mechanism for enforcing custody and parenting time orders from a court with jurisdiction under the act.

When only one parent or the child in a custody dispute lives in Indiana, the UCCJA requires the Indiana court where the custody or visitation matter is pending to analyze specific factors regarding the parties’ states of residence and contacts to determine which state has the authority to decide the custody matter. This is a mandatory first step in every Indiana UCCJA child custody matter.

If the court determines that Indiana has jurisdiction over the case, then the court may proceed to apply Indiana child custody laws to decide the issues presented. If the Indiana court determines that it does not have legal authority under the UCCJA to decide the matter, then it will issue an order to that effect and cannot proceed in the case.

To make the best argument in your Indiana UCCJA child custody case, you need skilled interstate custody lawyers. At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, our legal acumen and extensive litigation skills enable us to handle all aspects of your Indiana interstate child custody case.

What Factors Does the Court Consider under the UCCJA?

The threshold question in any interstate child custody or parenting time case is which state has jurisdiction to decide the case. Under the UCCJA, the court answers that question by examining these key factors:

  • Identifying the child’s home state under the UCCJA
  • Determining whether the child has a significant connection with a particular state
  • Determining whether an emergency exists that the court must urgently address to protect the child

The UCCJA instructs that jurisdiction rests in the child’s “home state.” Indiana Code § 31-21-2-8 defines the home state as the state where the child has lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for the six months before the custody proceeding begins. When a family relocates to another state, the child’s home state may be different than the “issuing state,” which is the state that made a previous child custody determination.

If an Indiana court has previously made a custody determination regarding the child, that court retains exclusive, continuing jurisdiction until one of the following occurs:

  • The child and the child’s parents or persons acting as parents no longer have significant contacts with the state and substantial evidence relevant to custody is no longer available in Indiana
  • A court has determined that the child and the child’s parents or persons acting as parents no longer live in Indiana

Even if a particular Indiana court has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction, a court in another county or state may acquire temporary emergency jurisdiction if any of the following conditions apply:

  • The child has been abandoned
  • Emergency jurisdiction is necessary to protect the child from actual or threatened abuse by the child, a sibling, or a parent

After evaluating the factors above, an Indiana court may determine that jurisdiction is proper in that court, in another county’s court in Indiana, or in another state’s court. In the latter two instances, the Indiana court that performed the UCCJA evaluation would no longer have the authority to render any decisions in the case. Indiana Code § 31-21-4-1 allows an Indiana court to communicate with a court in another state to coordinate matters proceeding under the UCCJA.

An Indiana UCCJA child custody case is complex, involving the application of the UCCJA on top of Indiana family law. As a parent or someone acting as a parent, you need the assistance of interstate custody lawyers with the knowledge and experience to best protect your custody rights and your child. You’ll find those lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP.

When Does the UCCJA Apply to a Child Custody Case?

Child custody matters can arise anytime parents are no longer a couple, officially or unofficially. People commonly think of custody matters as arising in divorce cases, but custody disputes can also occur when the parents were never married to each other. In these cases, a parent can invoke the court’s assistance in deciding a custody dispute with the other parent only if there is an existing paternity case. The court requires a legal determination regarding paternity before it has the authority to decide custody matters in such cases.

Child custody and parenting time matters are not limited to divorce and paternity cases. Indiana Code § 31-21-2-5 provides that the UCCJA applies to child custody or visitation issues that arise in any of these types of cases:

Whether your original custody or parenting time order was issued by an Indiana court or from an out-of-state court and one parent now lives in Indiana, Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help. Our interstate custody lawyers are accomplished litigators and family law practitioners with years of experience in a variety of family law cases. We are devoted to resolving family law disputes with compassion and dogged determination for our clients.

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Enforcing Other States’ Orders under the UCCJA

The UCCJA also authorizes an Indiana court to recognize and enforce a custody or parenting time order issued by another state that is the appropriate legal authority under the act. Under Indiana Code § 31-21-6-2, the court may recognize and enforce an order from another state as long as that court’s authority satisfies the requirements of the UCCJA and no subsequent court has modified the order.

Before an Indiana court may enforce another state’s custody or parenting time order, that order must be registered with the Indiana court. Indiana Code § 31-21-6-4 sets out the requirements for registering a custody determination made in another state, namely, by submitting:

  • A written request to register the foreign order
  • Two copies of the foreign order, one of which must be certified
  • The contact information of the person asking the court to register the foreign custody order
  • The name of the parent or other person who has been awarded custody or visitation in the foreign state’s order

Upon receiving documentation that complies with Indiana Code § 31-21-6-4, the Indiana court will register the other state’s order as a foreign judgment and give notice to the person named in the registration request that he or she has twenty (20) days to contest the validity of the other state’s order.

Custody and Parenting Time Orders from Other Countries

The UCCJA provides at Indiana Code § 31-21-1-3 that the act also applies to custody and visitation orders from foreign countries. In other words, when presented with an international custody matter, the court must first consider whether the other country or Indiana has the legal authority, as defined by the UCCJA, over the case. If the court’s analysis reveals that the other country has subject matter jurisdiction, the court must recognize the foreign order unless the other country’s child custody law violates basic human rights principles.

Similarly, the procedure for enforcing another country’s custody or visitation order is the same as for an order from another state. The party seeking to enforce the foreign order must follow the UCCJA’s procedures for registering the order as a foreign judgment, and the other parent must be provided an opportunity to object to the validity of the order.

Applying the UCCJA to modify, contest, or enforce a child support order in an international family law case requires strict compliance with the act and, sometimes, dealing with claims under Hague Convention as well. Every Indiana parent dealing with an international custody case requires the assistance of an Indiana interstate custody lawyer to ensure strict compliance with the UCCJA and to coordinate UCCJA arguments with state law and Hague Convention provisions. The Indiana interstate child custody lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP bring depth of experience, artful strategies, and compassionate but determined litigation skills to every case.

Choose Interstate Custody Lawyers with Relevant Experience

If you and your child’s parent live in different states and are unable to resolve disagreements affecting custody or parenting time, you need help from interstate custody lawyers in Indiana who have the following qualities:

  • An in-depth understanding of interstate child custody matters under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act
  • Extensive experience in Indiana family law matters
  • A compassionate approach balanced with result-oriented determination and keen litigation skills

The Indiana interstate custody lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have the qualities and experience you need to protect your custody rights and your child. Whether you need to enforce a custody or parenting time order entered outside Indiana or you need to show that the Indiana court has jurisdiction in your case, we can help.


For a free consultation, call (317) 202-1163 or complete our online contact form. When it comes to your rights and your child’s well-being, don’t delay—call now.

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