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Gotcha Custody

When families begin to fracture, there is often a period of separation where the family is no longer intact, but there is also no court order regarding child custody, visitation, support, and the like. In other words, no enforceable rules by which the parents will abide by during this period of transition.

This often opens the door for a well-intentioned parent to be taken advantage of. Let's say the family is living in Texas and the parents, Pat and Alex split up. Pat moves to Pat's childhood home to Georgia and the parents have an informal agreement that the children will primarily live with Alex in Texas. Summer break comes around and Alex agrees to send the children to spend the summer with Pat. Alex is doing exactly what we want and expect parents to do in these situations. Children should be spending time with both parents, even if it means in different homes and in different states.

Everything seems to be going well until July. Alex sends Pat a text on July 5th seeking confirmation that Pat would be returning the children at the end of the month as they previously agreed to. Pat responds, but is very noncommittal. A week goes by. Alex sends another text, this one gets no response. Another week passes and Alex starts panicking: Pat won't answer phone calls and doesn't respond to texts. Alex starts getting frantic. On July 28th, Alex gets served with an Emergency Order from a Georgia court giving Pat custody!

Or, in another scenario, Alex lets the kids go live with Pat for awhile. Six months goes by. Alex is antsy to get the children back home. Alex gets served with custody paperwork out of Georgia claiming Georgia has jurisdiction now over the children even though Alex has never stepped foot on Georgia soil!

For the good of society, we want more folks like Alex in our examples above. We want parents who have separated to put their children in the best possible spot to spend as much time as they can with both of their parents even when the parents' relationship has crumbled. Children need both parents whenever possible. But there are rules and timing issues that parents should be aware of and safeguards that an "Alex" can put in place to limit the risk of being hauled into a foreign court simply because "Pat" decided to move to another state.

Be like Alex. And if you share custody with someone like Pat, call us quick!

David Purvis

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