Child Custody in a Federal System

Among the most difficult of judicial functions is the determination of a child’s custody after its parents have separated. The difficulties are acute enough when all the parties remain in the same place; when the parties are in different states, an additional perplexing problem arises as to which state should have authority to make the custody decision. This broad question can be resolved into three distinct though interrelated issues: (1) what state may initially determine custody; (2) what state may later modify that determination; (3) to what extent is such a determination binding on other states.