The ongoing child custody proceedings between actress and director Olivia Wilde and actor and producer Jason Sudeikis have brought to light some of the legal issues involved with navigating interstate custody issues. Although the public drama of a celebrity custody battle may seem vastly different from the family law issues that an average New Yorker may face, the legal principles governing interstate custody proceedings remain the same.
Which State Has Jurisdiction Over Custody?
In Wilde and Sudeikis's case, Sudeikis filed for custody of their two children in New York in October 2021, claiming that Brooklyn had always been the children's permanent home. In August 2022, however, a New York judge ruled that the children's home state is California and therefore that state properly holds jurisdiction over the case. Sudeikis appealed the ruling, but a judge denied his appeal this month, sending the case back to California. Sudeikis and Wilde's ongoing custody dispute illustrates an important principle that guides custody jurisdiction in the United States.
The Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is the primary federal law that determines which state has jurisdiction over custody proceedings for children with parents living in different states. The law grants exclusive and continuing jurisdiction to the child's home state, which is understood as the state where they have lived for at least six months prior to the commencement of the proceeding. This ensures that a single state is responsible for handling custody proceedings and that parents can't try to move their children around in an attempt to gain a legal advantage.
If there is a question of which state has jurisdiction over a child custody issue, the determining factor is therefore not where the children's parents reside but rather where the children themselves reside. New York courts have the authority to determine custody if New York is the home state of the child when custody proceedings commenced unless the home state of the child declines to exercise its jurisdiction on the grounds that New York should instead have jurisdiction over the case. Only one state can have jurisdiction over a custody matter.
In a previous blog, we have reviewed when New York courts might have jurisdiction over child custody.
Navigating Complex Child Custody Issues
Wilde and Sudeikis's child custody dispute demonstrates how difficult and nuanced child custody issues can be. At the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC, we understand the complexities of navigating child custody issues, especially when parents reside in different states. Our compassionate and experienced child custody attorneys have decades of experience in family law, divorce proceedings, and child custody matters and are dedicated to protecting your rights and interests throughout the process.
If you have questions about child custody or any other family law issues, reach out to us by filling out our online form or call us at (845) 605-4330 to schedule a consultation. We’re here to help you understand your options and provide the strong legal representation you need to ensure that the best interests of your children are protected.