Legal Question in Family Law in California

My son's father and I were never married. We have a 6 year old son and we lived in Los Angeles where my son's father worked and I have always been a stay at home mom. We lived in separate residences.

In August (this year, 2009) my son left with his father on a trip AND NEVER CAME HOME. When I finally found them, I learned that he'd gone to Seattle, WA where his parents live and that he had already enrolled my son in school. I called the police but they told me that since he wasn't hiding my son from me, it wasn't kidnapping. He left me no money to get up there and I never had access to his bank accounts. It took me until now to find someone to help me get a plane ticket up to Seattle.

When I got there last week, I discovered that my son is living with both his father and MY sister, who lives in Tacoma. In the two days that I was in Seattle, I was allowed about two hours to visit with him. I'm now staying in Portland, OR with some friends, trying to get on my feet. I call my son several times a day to talk to him, but they rarely let him call me back, even though he wants to talk to me and doesn't understand why I've "abandoned" him. There's never been a custody arrangement because we've never been married or divorced, but my son's father IS on the birth certificate. CAN I JUST GO UP THERE AND TAKE MY SON BACK?

Thank You, K

Asked on 10/27/09, 11:14 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Timothy McCormick Libris Solutions - Dispute Resolution Services
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California courts have jurisdiction over this, but not for much longer. Where the child resided for the last continuous six months is what counts. You need to get back down to California and get a custody order immediately. Putting the father on the birth certificate did nothing to establish paternity or any other legal obligations, but just enough that the police won't do anything. You need to get your son's legal status cleaned up immediately and then you can ask for him back. Right now as far as the law is concerned your legal rights and the father's in recard to your son are about the same as if you were currently married. That means either parent can make any decision for the child, including where he lives. Until you get a paternity ruling and custody order, the father can get away with this. Again, California has jurisdiction, in the county the child last lived. You need to get into court ASAP.

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11/01/09, 12:51 pm

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