How to Change the Jurisdiction of Your Child Custody Case

Allison Sutton
By: Allison Sutton
PublishedMar 7, 2023
3 minute read

It’s an unfortunate reality that marriages end and families split up. Maybe a new job or relationship brought you and your child to Colorado. If this is the case, it might be financially and logistically beneficial to transfer your child custody case to Colorado. Read this article to learn more about how to change jurisdiction for your child custody case.

Bottom Line

If you have moved to Colorado from another state, you can ask the court to transfer your child custody case here.

A smiling young boy with dark skin and hair stands in a driveway holding a cardboard moving box, with his parents in the background also holding boxes.

What the Law Says About Changing a Custody Case’s Jurisdiction

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act is a uniform state law requiring state courts to enforce valid child custody and visitation determinations made by sister state courts. All U.S. states except Massachusetts have adopted some form of the UCCJEA.

If no custody order has been issued in another state, Colorado has jurisdiction to enter an initial custody order when:

  • Colorado is the child’s home state.
  • Colorado was the child’s state within 182 days of filing for custody, and a parent or person acting as a parent still lives in Colorado.
  • No other state has jurisdiction.
  • Courts in the child’s home state have declined jurisdiction on the grounds that Colorado is a more convenient forum.
  • A court in the child’s home state has declined to exercise jurisdiction and 1) the child and parents have a significant connection with Colorado other than physical presence and
    “substantial evidence is available in this state concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships.” Colo. Revised Statutes § 14-13-201

Exclusive Continuing Jurisdiction

The UCCJEA sets exclusive and continuing jurisdiction for child custody issues in the child’s home state. This means that once a Colorado court has issued a child custody order, the state retains exclusive jurisdiction to modify the order even if you move.

How to Change Jurisdiction for Your Child Custody Case

What You’ll Need

Let’s say your initial custody order was filed in Texas, but you and your child moved to Colorado. To change the jurisdiction to Colorado, you’ll need the following:

  1. a letter or other document requesting registration
  2. two copies, including one certified copy, of the entire court file, and a statement under penalty of perjury that the order has not been modified “to the best of your knowledge and belief”
  3. your name and address, along with that of any parent or person acting as a parent who has been awarded custody, allocated parental responsibilities, or granted visitation or parenting time in the initial order

You’ll need to submit these documents to the appropriate Colorado district court, along with a Petition to Register Foreign Child Custody Determination, a Summons, and a Notice of Registration. 

What Happens Next

Next, the court will file a foreign custody order and serve notice upon the other people named in your petition. Those people will then have an opportunity to contest the jurisdiction change by requesting a hearing within 21 days. C.R.S. § 14-13-305

However, a challenge to transferring jurisdiction in your custody case will likely fail unless your child’s other parent can prove:

  1. The issuing court did not have jurisdiction.
  2. The custody order has been vacated.
  3. The person contesting registration was not properly notified. C.R.S. § 14-13-305
An Example: Texas to Colorado

After a Texas couple divorced in 2003, the mother was awarded the exclusive right to determine where her child lived “without regard to geographic location.” The mother promptly moved to Colorado with the child, and the father followed.

In March 2005, the father registered the Texas custody order in an El Paso County district court and filed an emergency motion to prevent the mother from leaving Colorado with the child. He then asked the court for primary residential custody, alleging his ex-wife planned to move to California.

The mother questioned the court’s jurisdiction in her response, arguing that the court could not modify the custody order until two years had passed since it was entered. 

In Colorado, the law requires a two-year waiting period between filing motions to modify parenting time. However, the two-year time bar for modification does not apply if a party wants to modify the original order. If there has already been a modification of parenting time, another motion cannot be filed until two years after the prior motion was resolved by the court.

The father claimed that the two-year limit did not apply, but the court ruled that his claim was time-barred under C.R.S. § 14-10-129(1.5). 

Father Appeals

On appeal, Judge Steve Bernard ruled that the El Paso County district court did, in fact, have jurisdiction to modify the custody agreement:

Once an out-of-state order is properly docketed, a Colorado court acquires jurisdiction “as if the original suit or action had been commenced in this state” and is “empowered to amend, modify, set aside, and make new orders.” Thus, because Texas has enacted reciprocal provisions for the enforcement of Colorado orders and the Texas decree was docketed in this state, § 14-11-101(1) requires us to treat the 2003 Texas divorce decree as if the case had been commenced in Colorado. In the Interest of F.A.G., 148 P.3d 375, 377 (Colo. App. 2006)

The Colorado Court of Appeals further ruled that the father’s motion was not subject to the two-year rule and therefore should have been heard. The case was remanded to the district court to consider the father’s motion on its own merits.

Benefits of Changing Jurisdiction in Your Child Custody Case

Home Field Advantage

Moving your case to Colorado gives you a home-field advantage. You’ll be able to retain a local attorney and more easily attend hearings. And, instead of you flying or driving to Texas numerous times, your child’s other parent will be the one traveling to participate in the case.

Change My Custody Jurisdiction

Petitioning to transfer your child custody case can be tricky. You need an attorney who knows the ins and outs of Colorado family law. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your case assessment.

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