Understanding Interstate Child Custody In Missouri

child holding hand

After divorcing, some parents may find that a new job or life opportunity has lead them to a new state. Many of them go on to make arrangements to share custody in some capacity. However, parents with primary custody often share a fear, “What if my ex-spouse ‘kidnaps’ our child?”

Parents want to know how their custody agreements will be enforced in the event that their ex-spouse forcibly takes custody of their children. They also want to know that if their ex-spouse wants to dispute their case in another state, would their original order be protected?

In order to discourage non-custodial parents from kidnapping children and taking them to another state, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act was adopted by every state. The law enforces interstate child custody to protect original custody orders.


The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act was first introduced in 1968 as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act. It was formally adopted by every state in 1981. Up until then, it was common for parents to take their children across state lines hoping for more favorable results for their cases. Many were successful.

When the UCCJA took effect it established two things:

1. Jurisdiction over a child custody case in a state; and

2. The order of that state was to be protected from modification in any other state, for as long as the original state retains jurisdiction over the case

In 1981 a similar law, the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, was introduced. The PKPA filled in certain gaps that existed in the UCCJA.

The PKPA enforced and addressed two key points:

1. It gave priority to the original or “home state” that the case was established in, thereby giving authority to exercise jurisdiction over a child custody dispute; and

2. Upon exercising that jurisdiction, it gives the home state authority to continue the jurisdiction exclusively until all original parties exit that state.

– Alternatively for as long as the home state is actively exercising jurisdiction over the case

In 1997 when the UCCJEA was established it combined the UCCJA and PKPA, while adding key points that were lacking in both laws.

In addition to merging the two laws, the UCCJEA added interstate civil enforcement for child custody orders.

This binds states to enforce the custody and visitation orders established in the home state of the case, eliminating confusion and attempts to undermine an original order.


For more information on enforcing interstate child custody and to have your case reviewed, contact Jay Galmiche, a St. Louis Divorce Lawyer with over 30 years of experience in Family Law. Serving the areas of Chesterfield, Ballwin, and Wildwood, Missouri, Attorney Jay Galmiche will give you the individual attention that you need beginning with your first free initial consultation.

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