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Child custody: make certain it is done properly the first time

When you decide to get divorced, one question you may not even ask is where you should file a divorce case. The reason it may not occur to you, is that it typically is where you and your soon-to-be former spouse reside. And if you have children, ongoing questions relating to child custody, parenting time (visitation) and child support, will ultimately be answered by the family courts of your state.

If either parent moves, the questions of child custody and support take on a greater complexity. A court must have jurisdiction to hear a case, and jurisdiction depends on where the parties live. And when the parents live in different states, jurisdiction becomes very important. It is vital to have your custody and support arraignments in your divorce agreement, as that document will govern your relations with your former spouse until your children are adults.

A recent story in the Huffington Post explains why failing to have custody clearly assigned in your divorce agreement is a mistake. A woman divorced with a young son. They opted for a low-cost divorce, and the father remarried and moved to another state. The father seemed to have little interest in the son until the mother allowed him to visit for a few weeks. The father then refused to send the boy home, and filed a custody action to keep him.

Because there was no formal agreement, the courts had to sort out the proper custody, which caused the mother a large expense as she had to travel to the courts of the father's state. She regained custody, but the problems could have been avoided if she had received formal custody in the initial divorce agreement.

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

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