WARNING: Never attempt to litigate a “move-away” case on your own. As every divorce attorney in California who has filed or defended a “move away” case will tell you, this area of law is fraught with fatal technicalities and a single innocent mistep can cost you your relationship with your children.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) is the controlling law. This statute has been adopted, with some minor modifications, in every state. We have litigated a number of “move-away” cases with great success.
One recent case involved a Nigerian couple residing in New Jersey. (Foreign nationals living in the U.S. are subject to the UCCJEA. Custody disputes in which one parent resides in the United States and the other parent resides in foreign country may be covered by the Hague Convention.) They had one young child and Mother decided she wanted to move to California. Father had to stay in New Jersey. Mother moved without Father’s consent and Father retained us.
At the hearing on jurisdiction, the New Jersey court and the California court conferred with each other telephonically, which is what the law requires courts to do when determining which state has jurisdiction. We were present in Pasadena and were able to satisfy the court that New Jersey had jurisdiction. Producing this result “tipped” the case in Father’s favor and within a month, Father was able to secure substantial custody rights in New Jersey.
As you can see, determining which state has jurisdiction oftentimes determines whether the parent/child relationship survives.
A word to the wise: Never make a general appearance in “another” state unless you want that state to assume jurisdiction over your marriage and children. Retain an attorney immediately to contest jurisdiction. She will make a special appearance on your behalf, which will prevent the other state from automatically assuming jurisdiction without first having a full hearing on jurisdiction.
“Move-away” cases are highly technical–and expensive. If you think retaining an attorney to defend a “move-away” is expensive, then think again about how much more it will cost to litigate an out-of-state case and how expensive it will be to visit your children. Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish: retain qualified legal counsel.