The District of Columbia Safe and Stable Homes for Children and Youth Act allows third parties the opportunity to petition for custody of children. The Act also establishes the standards governing custody cases involving third parties.
In order for a third party to have standing to sue for custody the parent who has been the primary caregiver within the past three years must consent to the action, the third party has to have both lived in the same household with the child for at the least four of the previous six months, or the third party must be presently living with the child and circumstances are present to where third party custody is necessary to prevent harm to the child.
The Court can grant custody to the third party if a determination is made that the presumption in favor of the parent has been defeated and that custody with the third party is in the best interest of the child.
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In the D.C. metro area child custody disputes often arise that involve multiple states. For example, the children may reside in the District of Columbia, but one of the parents reside in Virginia or Maryland or vice versa. When a situation such as this arises the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) sets the rules for jurisdiction over the child custody dispute.
Specifically the UCCJEA sets the rules as to what state’s courts have jurisdiction to enter and enforce custody orders. The UCCJEA is incorporated into the District of Columbia Code in §16-4601.01, and governs custody disputes in every state except Massachusetts.
The UCCJEA allows for four options for a state to claim jurisdiction over a child custody dispute. Those options are:
• Home state – the state has been the home state of the children for at least 6 months prior to the filing of a custody action
• Significant connection – the children have a significant connection to the state
• More appropriate forum – this option can only be used if other states have declined jurisdiction under the home state or significant connection options
• Last chance – if none of the 3 options above are available this fourth option may be used.
Should you become involved in a child custody dispute contact the Barkat Law Firm to speak with a D.C. child custody attorney about what options are available to you.
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