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The "Full Faith and Credit" Provision in the Constitution

In the United States Constitution, there is a "full faith and credit" clause that directly applies to child custody. The clause claims that any judicial decisions that are rendered by one court in a state are recognized by every other state. This court prevents parties from moving to another state so that they can escape a particular judgment, or moving to another state to retry a case and get a better outcome. When men and women move to different states to retry a case, this is called forum shopping.

In divorce and child custody cases, some parents may be tempted to try forum shopping in order to get a favorable outcome. If a mother wants custody of her children, but the courts award the father primary custody, she may attempt to move to a state that tends to uphold mother's rights and retry the case. The Full Faith and Credit Clause enforce prior judgment, and allows courts in one state to petition the enforcement of a judgment in another state.

One of the only exceptions to the Full Faith and Credit provision in the Constitution is in the area of homosexual marriage. With the establishment of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government determined that marriage is between a man and a woman. In some states, gay marriage is approved, and same-sex couples are legally allowed to marry. In states where same-sex marriage is illegal, the courts do not have to recognize any same-sex marriages that were performed in other states. This helps the courts to sort through same-sex marriages in their own states without involving states that may have an opposite stance.

Child custody determinations often fall under the jurisdiction of state courts, and other states did not need to enforce these rulings until 1970s. Prior to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, men and women commonly forum shopped until they got a satisfactory child custody arrangement. This became an incentive for parents to kidnap the children and move to a different state in order to get a different ruling. Now, this is illegal and all custody decisions cannot be appealed in different states unless it is an exceptional case. If you want more information about this, contact a Plano family attorney at the Zendeh Del Law Firm, PLLC.