Jurisdiction is the authority of a court to hear particular types of legal matters. If the court does not have jurisdiction, then it may not hear the case. In cases involving interstate custody disputes, New Hampshire has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act under NH RSA 458-A. The Act is designed to avoid competition and conflict between courts of different states. Also, it ensures that litigation over custody takes place in the jurisdiction where the child and family have the closest connection and where significant evidence is most available.
The provisions of 458-A:3 lay out the circumstances in which New Hampshire will assume jurisdiction over child custody determinations:
1. New Hampshire is the child’s home state (1) or has been for six consecutive months before the custody proceeding starts and a parent or person acting as parent continues to live in New Hampshire.
2. It is in the best interest of the child that New Hampshire assume jurisdiction if the child and parents or the child and at least one contestant have significant connection with New Hampshire and within the state there is substantial evidence concerning the child’s present or future care, protection, training, and personal relationships.
3. New Hampshire will assume jurisdiction if the child is physically present in this state and has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child.
4. If it appears that no other state would have jurisdiction or another state has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that New Hampshire is more appropriate to determine the custody of the child, and it is in the best interest of the child then New Hampshire will assume jurisdiction.
Therefore, except in emergency/abandonment situations or when no other state would have jurisdiction, the physical presence of the child, or of the child and one of the contestants, is not alone sufficient for New Hampshire to have jurisdiction. In other words, a parent removing a child from one state and coming to New Hampshire may not be able to immediately seek custody orders from the court.
Other significant provisions under the Act are:
· If at the time of filing a petition in New Hampshire there is a proceeding simultaneously pending in another state, New Hampshire will not exercise jurisdiction 458-A:6.
· New Hampshire courts shall recognize and enforce the decree of a court of another state which had assumed jurisdiction 458-A:13.
· If a court in another state has made a custody decree, New Hampshire will not modify it unless: (a) it appears that the state which rendered the decree no longer has jurisdiction or has declined to assume jurisdiction and (b) New Hampshire now has jurisdiction 458-A:14.
 "Home state” means the state where the child resides with his parent/s or a person acting as parent for at least 6 consecutive months at the time the custody proceeding starts. If the child is less than 6 months old at the time of the proceedings then “home state” means the state where the child resided for a majority of the time since birth.
Crusco Law Office law clerk Marisa L. Ulloa contributed to this blog post.