Question: I have one child; he is 5 years old. I have raised him together with his mother since birth. We were engaged but have not married. She announced she is breaking it off and moving to another county and taking the child. What are my rights in Kansas and more importantly, what can I do to prevent him from leaving the current county and school district?
Answer: I cannot answer your question specifically to Kansas as I do not practice in the state. However, Cordell & Cordell has many attorneys licensed and located in Kansas who would be happy to help you.
With that said, depending on how your state treats paternity actions, you may have no say in the move right now. Because you were not married at the time the child was born you will have to be adjudicated before any custody or placement rights are established. Even if you signed the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity at the hospital, that does not mean that you have custody and placement rights. Without a paternity order, many states default to sole legal custody and placement with the mother. You can petition the court through a paternity action for custody and placement, however, you should be aware that this will trigger child support as well.
It sounds like she is making this decision in the near future. If that is the case, once you have petitioned for paternity, you may be obtain temporary orders which prohibit her from moving the child and enrolling him in another school district.
Once there is a Paternity Order with the Court, many states have statutes in place which permit you to object to the move. At a minimum, if you pursue and obtain joint legal custody then the decision of where your son goes to school would be a joint decision; she would have to consult with you prior to enrolling him in a different school. In that scenario, it would be her burden to prove that the move is in your son’s best interest.
You should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in Kansas immediately to ensure you file prior to her moving.
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.