March 28, 2014. What happens when a family living in one state has a child custody arrangement moves to another state or even other states and the order needs to be modified? Before you can modify an out-of-state custody order in Iowa or any other state, jurisdiction must be satisfied. This is to prevent forum shopping or conflicts between states in determining custody.

An Iowa court cannot modify a child custody determination made by a court of another state unless an Iowa court has jurisdiction to make an initial determination under Iowa law and either of the following apply:

1) The court of the other state determines it no longer has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction or that an Iowa court would be a more convenient forum.

2) An Iowa court or a court of another state determines that the child, the child’s parents, and any person acting as a parent do not presently reside in the other state.

Consult your attorney if you are involved in a modification action involving multiple states. You will want to file in the correct state to save time and expense. If you do not, the defending side can file a motion in court to argue jurisdiction. If you are defending a modification action, you do not want to necessarily consent to jurisdiction in a particular state without knowing the consequences. You may need to file an action to challenge jurisdiction so that the proper court hears the case.

For more information about family law or jurisdiction to modify an out-of-state court order, contact the Goosmann Law Firm at or call 712-226-4000.

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