Custody Disputes in Competing States

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Custody Disputes in Competing States

When one parent moves out of California with minor children, California courts may exercise jurisdiction over the family to hear custody disputes if the left behind parent files a petition within six months.

The parents in this case had two minor children who lived in California until the oldest was six and the youngest was three. The mother then moved with the children to Pennsylvania. Within two months of their move, the father filed a petition in California to obtain custody of the minor children. Mother objected to California’s jurisdiction claiming that California was an inconvenient forum for her and that Pennsylvania could exercise jurisdiction for custody. Mother also filed a dissolution in Pennsylvania which sought custody orders.

In the California action, the mother challenged the father’s petitioner filed in California stating that California lacked jurisdiction to determine custody of the minor children. The trial judges in Pennsylvania and California conferred and determined that California would have jurisdiction of the custody action due to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (“UCCJA”) which is the predecessor to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Based on the UCCJA, Pennsylvania would relinquish jurisdiction of custody to California. Mother appealed the ruling challenging California’s jurisdiction over custody.

The First District Court of Appeal disagreed with mother and stated that the purpose of the UCCJA was to prevent either parent from forum shopping by moving minor children to a state in which the parent believes the courts are more favorable to that parent’s position or in which it would be more difficult for the parent who stayed in the home state to challenge the legal action. The UCCJA allows the court where the minor children lived for six months proceeding the action to have jurisdiction in the case regardless of where the children live at the time the court hears the case. Since the minor children in this case had only lived in Pennsylvania for two months, California was the appropriate forum.

If you need a divorce attorney in the Orange County area to address move away issues or custody in the dissolution of a marriage or any other divorce matter such as legal separation, annulment, child custody, spousal support and/or property division, contact our law office located in Laguna Hills at (949) 716-2102. Conveniently located off of the 5 and 405 freeway at Lake Forest.

Please note that the posting of this information does not constitute legal advice for a divorce in Orange County. Facts and circumstances of the dissolution proceedings may alter the required action and analysis in any given family law case.

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