Question: My daughter was born in Texas. Her mother took her without my permission/knowledge, and went to Iowa. She has been there almost a week. Now my wife is refusing to come home, and she will not let me see my daughter. What can I do?
Answer: You should contact a domestic litigation attorney RIGHT AWAY. In addition to issues relating to taking your child out of state without your permission, you may have jurisdiction issues as well. Each state has different laws governing domestic issues. Right now Texas has jurisdiction over any divorce filing and issues pertaining to your child. However, Iowa has different laws which may be more beneficial for your wife should she remain in Iowa long enough to meet the residency requirement necessary to file an action in Iowa.
Most states have statutes which require a parent to notify the other parent with intent to move the child X-number of miles away. Texas and Iowa are far enough apart that if there is a statute, you would meet the distance requirement. The statutes require the parent to provide notice and the other parent has a right to object. The parent desiring to move with the child then has to prove to the court that the move is in the child’s best interest. If there is a similar statute in Texas, I am sure she did not follow the established procedure. There tend to be exceptions which include, but are not limited to, incidents of domestic violence and imminent harm to the child.
Right now, you and your wife have equal rights to your daughter. If you determine that you want to file for divorce, you could obtain temporary orders from the court which would detail where your child lives and what the visitation schedule is with each parent during the pendency of the divorce. You should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in Texas immediately. Cordell & Cordell has many attorneys licensed and located in Texas who would be happy to assist you.
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.