As a child custody attorney in San Antonio, Texas, I have many clients who either live out of state, or who are involved in child custody litigation with parties who live out of state. Whenever a party to child custody litigation resides in another state or country, "jurisdictional" issues often arise, and are often the source of great controversy and contention.
The term "jurisdiction" refers to the power of a court to hear a case and to issue orders to the parties involved. The power of the court to listen a particular type of case, such as a child custody case, is called "subject mater jurisdiction." The power of a court to order a particular person to do something is called "personal jurisdiction." You can read about personal jurisdiction in a posting I wrote previously. The subject of this suit is a certain type of subject matter jurisdiction involving parties and/or children who live in other states.
Child custody jurisdiction issues in Texas, and any other state for that matter, are governed by the body of law commonly referred to as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act. Virtually all states in the U.S. have adopted a version of the UCCJEA. The original plan was for all states to adopt the same jurisdictional laws to eliminate conflicts between laws of different states.
Unfortunately, some states' version of the UCCJEA is different than that adopted by Texas. Therefore, conflicts sometime arise between Texas law and the law of another state when both Texas and the other state try to claim jurisdiction over a case.
In a nutshell, subject matter jurisdiction in Texas child custody case is determined by the amount of time a child has spent in a particular state. In an original custody proceeding, Texas can assume subject matter jurisdiction according to a hierarchal ladder of situations, the first and foremost of which is that the child must have lived in Texas for the last six months prior to filing the lawsuit (or since the child's birth, if the child is less than six months old). When the child hasn't been in any state for the previous six months, other parts of the ladder apply. Once Texas (or some other state), has determined that it has jurisdiction to hear a particular child custody case, then that state acquires "exclusive continuing jurisdiction" over the case, and no one can file a suit involving the custody or support of that child in another state unless the original court loses continuing exclusive jurisdiction over the case.