my divorce was done in N.M. I have joint custody of my 3 girls, my ex-husband has ''primary care.'' This past August All 3 of my girls moved in with me in CA. Does this mean I now have primary care? They are happy with me and doing wonderfully in school here they were not doing so well with him. does he have the right to yank them away from me at any time he feels like? he has done it before.
2 Answers from Attorneys
Re: child custody
Wow! Get to a lawyer's office immediately, if not sooner and file a petition in CA asking the CA court to place custody of the children with you in CA. CA will have it's own version of a law call the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (also called the UCCJA) (the Federal Version of this law is called the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act or the PKPA). In real broad terms - that law has a provision (and understand that it varies a little bit from state to state) but it says that the state in which the children have been residing for 6 months or more is considered the "home state" for the children and jurisdiction over the children resides in their home state. Thus, you can bring a legal action in CA and allege that the children have been residing in CA for 6 mos or more and ask that the court make an order placing the children in your custody. Print this question and answer up and take it to a lawyer's office and show the lawyer and say "do this for me" and that lawyer will charge you some money and that lawyer will do it for you (use a family lawyer). What you could do on your own first (to save some bucks) is write to the court clerks office in the town or county where you got your divorce in NM and obtain a "certified true original copy" of your divorce decree and marital settlement agreement (or whichever document addresses custody about the children). Be prepared to pay $1.50 or $2.50 for the certification and between .35 cents to .50 cents per page that is copied at the courthouse. You can call the clerk's office ahead of time and they can tell you how much to send and they will also tell you to send it in form of a money order because they don't take personal checks. You will need to file a copy of the NM document with the court in CA and usually you have to file a "certified true original copy" and not just a copy. Good luck.
Re: child custody
I read Mr. Watson's letter to you and it is essentially correct.
What would happen if you follow his advice is this: CA could agree that the children have been her long enough and CA would become "the home state". NM, however, remains "the decree state". After you got your CA case number you could file a motion to formalize the current arrangement. He could then file in NM for return of the children. The judge here would talk to the judge there and decide which state has the most relevant contact with the children. So just having them here for six months does not necessarily trump NM jurisdiction.