How To Win A Parental Abduction Custody Battle in Tennessee and 47 Other States Using the UCCJEA Law
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How To Win A Parental Abduction Custody Battle in Tennessee and 47 Other States Using the UCCJEA Law

Whether you were married or not, if your ex-spouse, ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend moves the child you birthed together across state lines without giving you proper notice and the opportunity to go to court and object, you may well have a custody or relocation case you can win under the UCCJEA.

If your ex-spouse, ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend moves the child you birthed together across state lines against your wishes, without giving you proper notice, and without giving you the opportunity to go to court and object, you may well have legal standing to reverse the move. You might force them to move back, you might force all hearings on the matter to occur in your state and you might even win full custody.

If you previously were, or are currently married to the abducting parent you almost certainly have a winnable case. But don't assume that just because you were never married to the child's mother that it's a lost cause. You may still prevail in court depending on the circumstances.

I know this because as an unmarried father my child was abducted by her mother in June of 2007. She moved 1,500 miles away with my daughter and cut all contact in an attempt to establish "home state" in the new location hoping all court cases would be fought there. She failed in her attempt due to a law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction And Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA"). I hired a lawyer, papers were served on her and the judge granted me joint custody at the initial court appearance. All subsequent court appearances were held here in Tennessee. 

In October '07 I won full custody that was contingent on the mother not moving back to Tennessee within fifty miles of my residence. Faced with the prospect of having her attempt reversed and losing custody, the mother did move back within fifty miles of my residence and I will now enjoy a relationship with my daughter living close by through at least age seventeen.

Certainly you will need to investigate the UCCJEA and how it applies to your situation in your state but here are some facts that should help you:

  • Massachusetts and Vermont are the only two states that, at the time of this article's writing, have not yet adopted the UCCJEA
  • Time is of the essence! Consult with a lawyer immediately or you may lose certain rights afforded by the UCCJEA
  •  Do not expect a short one-hearing court battle just because your ex broke the law
  • Multiple court dates, discovery, mediation, and extended joint custody, with exchanges of the child at a halfway point until a decision is rendered, are not uncommon
  •  Costs can vary greatly depending on the complexity of your case, from about $1,500 to $35,000 being most common
  • Costs may include loss of work, lawyer fees and travel expenses during the joint custody phase
  • Fighting this action taken by your ex may be expensive but failing to mount a defense will very likely cost you more money in the long run and you may be forced to travel to the new "home state" for all court appearances
  • In Tennessee an unmarried father has no recourse under UCCJEA unless they previously "legitimized" the child by giving it their last name and taking full legal responsibility. The only right an unmarried father has who did not legitimize their child has is the right to pay child support
  • You will be responsible for paying child support regardless, so if your state offers the process of legitimization, consider legitimizing your child at birth which will give you many rights

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Comments (3)

A very good article. Sorry I'm out of votes.

My question is as the mother who fled domestic abuse (me), was granted an order of protection by the state and this child custody dispute is a vexacious suit.  He was arrested and convicted of domestic assault.  I have an order of protection.  He did this in front of our daughter and cornered me and attacked me again holding her.  Now does this father who has lied and lied and has a very dark secret from his family and friends who more than likely will physically, emotionally, or verbally harm his daughter?  I pray not, but the odds aren't good. What is your take as a father's rights with this matter?  I want him to be the best dad he can be, but the denial of all matters which were proven to be true in a court of law and an order of protection hearing tells me he is complete denial of his major issues at hand and needs serious counseling. Do you agree?  Or do I hand over my daughter after fleeing the state to the abusive, manipulative "father"???  

I do believe, based on this extremely limited information, the father has issues he should address before being in custody of the child permanently or during visitation. Obviously he is not doing so, therefore it's up to you (via your lawyer) to try to force the courts to get the father counseling/therapy.

Pursue it to the fullest extent legally possible but if you run out of options and you are faced with a court order instructing you to hand the child over at a specific time, you must. I'm not sure you're suggesting disobeying a court order but doing so would be a huge mistake. There are many cases where a parent fled with a child and ended up in prison with the other parent being granted full custody, the very thing they were trying to prevent!

There are many men who will do as you described but would never hurt their child so that should be of some comfort.

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