A recent case highlights the importance of “venue” from a legal perspective in California child custody cases. Venue is an important California child custody issue and often applies to those in military service, as well as unmarried couples when one of the parents intends to move away or has left the state of California with a child or children.
In 1997, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act or UCCJEA was drafted and adopted by 49 states including California. The UCCJEA governs most US child custody jurisdiction issues. Under the UCJEA, the child’s “home state” is defined as the state where a child lives with a parent (or a person serving as a parent) for at least six months prior to the beginning of a child custody legal action. If the child is less than six months of age the term applies to the state where the child resided from birth.
“Venue” defines which state’s courts and laws will have jurisdiction over the case. It is much more difficult and expensive to fight these cases in an out-of-state venue instead of California.
In a case late last year, a mother left California after residing with the child and its father for much more than six months. The mother claimed to be going to Florida for a visit with her grandmother, but stayed for 3 months before the father filed a child custody action here in California. The question in this case focused on the issue that the child had not been in California for six months prior to filing of the child custody action, as the mother had transported the child to Florida.
The California Court of Appeals overturned the ruling of a lower court and established that California still retained jursidiction or “venue” according to UCCJEA regulations. It is important that the Appellate Court noted that the mother had not filed any actions in Florida.
Venue is an important California child custody issue in move away and relocation cases. It is possible for a parent to take a child or children out of state, and attempt to establish emergency “venue” in that state in a matter of weeks or months. If you are a parent, and the other parent has taken your child or children out of state you must act immediately to protect the venue of your case and California’s jurisdiction over your children.
If you have questions about out-of-state child custody, relocations or “move-away” cases we invite you to contact us or call to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys at 760-434-3330.