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The Complications of a Multistate Family Law Matter

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Dec 01, 2023 | 0 Comments

In late August 2023, the Daily Voice reported that police had found a missing four-year-old girl from Connecticut. The girl, who had been taken from her biological father, who had full custody, was found safe and unharmed with her biological mother. The couple had previously resided in Puerto Rico, where the mother had filed multiple domestic violence reports against the father. This case begs the question: How could a father with multiple domestic violence charges in one country be awarded full custody in another? Unfortunately, the answer to that question turns on what matters each of the respective courts had jurisdiction to hear.

What Does Jurisdiction Mean?

In family law matters the term Jurisdiction refers to the authority of a particular court to hear and decide a case. In the state of New Jersey, jurisdiction in family law cases is governed by a set of rules and statutes designed to ensure that cases are heard in the appropriate court.

Divorces, Legal Separations, and Annulments

The Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, has jurisdiction over these matters. Divorces and annulments in New Jersey are typically determined by the residency of the parties involved. New Jersey Revised Statutes 2A: 34-8 requires that either party must have been a resident of New Jersey for at least one year before filing for divorce or annulment.

Child Custody and Visitation

New Jersey courts generally have jurisdiction if the child has significant connections to the state. Jurisdiction over child custody and parenting time disputes is governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Under the UCCJEA, the primary factor is the child's "home state," which is the state where the child has lived with a parent or guardian for at least six consecutive months. Therefore, even if one parent is a resident of Pennsylvania or New York when they file for a divorce if the child has consecutively resided in New Jersey with the other parent for at least six months, the UCCJEA would dictate jurisdiction.

Child Support

The New Jersey Family Part of the Superior Court also handles child support cases. Jurisdiction is typically based on the residence of the child or the non-custodial parent. For child support cases that also address the question of paternity, New Jersey may assume jurisdiction over the matter if the child was conceived in New Jersey or if the father was found in, resides in, or died in New Jersey.

Domestic Violence

In cases involving domestic violence, jurisdiction is not tied to residency. New Jersey courts have jurisdiction over domestic violence matters that occur within the state, regardless of where the parties reside. For instance, a New Jersey court could hear a domestic violence matter that results from an assault in New Jersey, even if the parties resided in another state.

Alimony

Similar to divorce cases, New Jersey Revised Statutes 2A 34-8 grants jurisdiction over spousal support matters determined by the residency of the parties. The Family Part of the Superior Court handles spousal support cases in New Jersey.

Have Questions About a Multiple Jurisdiction Matter?

Family law matters are often complicated by a lengthy history as well as incidents in multiple jurisdictions caused by the parties' detached lifestyles. It is not uncommon to have matters for divorce and alimony in a completely different state than a domestic violence or child custody matter. While this is true across the entire country, it is even truer for East Coast states that are geographically closer to one another.

If you have a family law matter with multiple jurisdictions and need help navigating your next steps, the Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm is here to help! Contact us today by calling (888) 535-3686 or by using our online contact form.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings! He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and protects their interests.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience practicing Family Law in New Jersey. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Family Law Attorney Joseph Lento will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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