Suing For Custody Across State Lines

Question: I have two girls ages 14 and 16. Their mother has full custody and resides in Alabama, the original custody/support order was issued in Alabama. The mother was awarded full custody in 1997 with unrestricted visitation rights given to me.

In 2004 their mother had the jurisdiction of my child support moved to Tennessee, I am not nor was I in arrears at the time. In 2005 my oldest daughter wanted to attend school in Tennessee and live with me, I was granted guardianship by Tennessee and in 2006 my youngest daughter attended school here for a year.

I am about to start my summer visitation (June-August) with them , and both have indicated that they would like to continue living with me and my wife after the visitation period ends. I do not believe their mother will accept this and the matter will probably end up in court (I plan on asking her only after I am ready to proceed).

My questions are:
1. Do I file in Tennessee or Alabama?
2. If Alabama does the county in which I file matter?
3. If Tennessee are there length of residency requirements for the children?

Answer: Allow me to preface my answer to your question with the disclaimer that I am not licensed to practice law in the state of Tennessee or Alabama.

1. Alabama has jurisdiction of the children because that is the state that they resided in for the 6 months leading up to the filing of your case.
2. I am not familiar with how Alabama venue works, but generally it is going to be appropriate in the county in which they live.
3. They need to be in 6 months in a state to become their “home state” which has jurisdiction for their custody decision making.

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