Question: Seven years ago, I got divorced in Illinois and was named the custodial parent of my children. Since then, I have moved to Texas.
Now, 7 years after the fact, my ex suddenly is filing a request to take the kids away from me. There has been no wrongdoing on my part, I don’t have a criminal record or anything, and I’m recently married with a very happy, intact family.
Is there any chance she can swoop in 7 years later and take my kids?
Answer: Your question raises issues of jurisdiction, notice of intent to move, and motions for modification.
Did she file the motion in Illinois or Texas? Since you have been in Texas with the children for 7 years, there is a jurisdiction question. Jurisdiction refers to which state should be deciding the case. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act and the jurisdiction statutes of each state must be reviewed to determine jurisdiction. There are time limits for objecting to jurisdiction. Therefore, you should contact an attorney in both Illinois and Texas immediately prior to answering her motion. Cordell & Cordell has many attorneys licensed and located in Illinois and Texas who would be able to assist you.
Notice of Intent to Move
Did you file a motion of intent to move when you moved to Texas? When the custodial parent decides to move out of state, most jurisdictions have a statute which requires the parent to file a notice of intent to move and to provide the other parent with the notice. The non-custodial parent then has the opportunity to object to the move. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, the Court may review the placement and custody arrangements to determine whether the move is in the children’s best interest.
Modification of Placement
Without knowing the entire situation, I cannot tell you whether she has a case for a modification of the placement. You should review her motion to find out what she has alleged warranted a modification. When determining custody and placement arrangements, the Court looks to the best interest of the children. Most states have a list of factors which help the Court determine the best interest of the children. It is important that you have a candid conversation with the attorney regarding the children, your relationship with your children, her relationship with your children, and why you believe it is best for the children to remain with you. It would be important for the attorney to know the basis of the original placement order and whether she has had any contact with the children over the past 7 years.
Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.