“I just need some space in the relationship and a chance to think things over.” If you have not heard this in a relationship you may know someone who has. While sometimes “space” can help a relationship, when there are children involved and space “space” means your spouse and children traveling to a different state to “think things over,” you cannot be too careful. What happens if your spouse decides to file for divorce in the other state? Which state will have jurisdiction over the divorce and decision regarding the custody and parenting time your children? Will your children ever come back to Arizona?
Sadly, I have seen many of these cases and the answer to most of these questions comes down to a time. The length of time a person must be domiciled in a state before the state has jurisdiction in a divorce varies according to the laws of the state. In contrast, the length of time a parent must be domiciled in a state before that state has jurisdiction to determine child custody and parenting time is determined by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”). According to the UCCJEA, a child’s “home state” is defined as the state where the child has lived with a parent for six consecutive months prior to the commencement of the proceeding.
For example, say a family has lived in Arizona for five years. The husband takes the child to Colorado. So long as the husband has not been in Colorado for more than six consecutive months with the child, then the wife can file in Arizona, and Arizona will likely hold jurisdiction over the child custody and parenting time portion of the divorce.
This is only a basic example of the UCCJEA. The UCCJEA is far from simple, and depending on the exact circumstances of the case, the outcome can vary. If you or someone you know is faced with such a situation, I highly recommend speaking with a lawyer with extensive UCCJEA experience.
Many of the cases I have handled have resulted in happy reunions of a worried parent with his/her children. But often the timing has been very close. If your spouse is wanting out of state “space” with the children, you need to think carefully before allowing this to happen. The results of a few months of “space” may have long lasting effects in your and your children’s lives. If you need help please contact me at (480) 833-1113.