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Mistakes to avoid when dealing with interstate child custody

In a scenario that could be any custodial parent's worst nightmare, a mother sends her child off to visit his father in another state. The day the child is due home, the father calls and says he and his new wife have decided they want the child to live with them. The mother then finds herself embroiled in a child custody dispute playing out in a courtroom on the other side of the country. The mother's legal and travel expenses mount. Her employer becomes impatient with her frequent need to take time off work. Ultimately, she loses the case and is ordered to pay child support to her ex-spouse. Worst of all, she now sees her child only a few weeks a year.

Can something like this really happen? Unfortunately, the scenario outlined above is drawn from several real-life cases. It can be prevented, however, if one avoids making two crucial errors in dealing with an interstate child custody situation.

First, if you are the custodial parent, do not send your child to visit the other parent in a different state without a custody order issued by a court in your own state. If your state issued the custody order, then your state has jurisdiction over a custody dispute. Second, if the other parent files for custody in a different state, insist that the matter be resolved in the courts of your state. If necessary, file your own custody action in your home state.

Child custody litigation can be emotionally draining and costly. It also can arise when least expected. If you find yourself in a child custody dispute, it is important to have appropriate legal representation. An experienced family law attorney can help protect your rights as well as the child's best interests.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Two Big Child Custody Mistakes To Avoid," Bob Jeffries, Dec. 26, 2012

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