In Which State Can I File For Custody?

December 22, 2014


Living in this area, many people are confused about which state is the correct forum to resolve custody disputes.  Many families have one parent living in Virginia and one parent living in DC.  So where do you file?

Generally, a state has jurisdiction over a custody matter if it is the home state of the child.

In D.C., this is governed by D.C. Code Section 16-4602.01.  The statute explains that there are several ways DC can make a custody determination. They are: (1) DC is the home state of the child, or was the home state within the last 6 months, but one parent continues to live in DC, (2) another state does not have jurisdiction; or has declined to exercise jurisdiction because DC is the more appropriate forum, and there is a significant connection with DC and substantial evidence is available in DC, (3) all other courts having jurisdiction have declined jurisdiction on the basis that DC is the more appropriate forum, or (4) no other court would have jurisdiction.

In Virginia, the law is the same, and outlined in Virginia Code Section 20-146.12.

It’s very important to file in the correct state, or your complaint will be dismissed. If you need assistance, contact an attorney experienced in family law and custody disputes.

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Making the Holidays Fun for Kids of Divorce

December 10, 2014


The holiday season brings up a lot of emotion for children.  Usually, kids associate good feelings with the holidays – relatives, parties, cookies, and presents.  The enjoyment of the holidays does not have to stop just because the parents split up.  For parents, the key to making the holidays fun for children is to have a positive attitude and continue family traditions.

The first holiday season after a separation or divorce is the hardest, because everyone is still trying to adjust to the change.  However, parents can get creative in making the holiday experience memorable.  Some parents have chosen to split the winter break – where one parent gets Christmas week and other other gets New Year’s week.  Even if you have your child the week of New Year’s, you can still celebrate Christmas.  It might be on December 28 instead, and dinner at grandma’s might be on December 27.  But you can make it work.  You can have your holiday party with friends the week prior to Christmas, or have a New Year’s party instead.

Other parents have chosen to split the day.  For example, one parent has the child Christmas Eve until Christmas day at noon; then the other parent has the child for the rest of Christmas day.  The same principle applies in that situation.  If you don’t have your child Christmas Eve, you can still celebrate it in a similar way that your child has come to expect.  Instead of having Christmas Eve dinner on December 24, you can have Christmas day lunch.  In keeping some traditions, the children don’t feel like they are missing the whole holiday with one of the parents.

Keeping some stability and traditions are important, because children lose some stability when their parents separate or divorce.  Obviously not everything will be the same, but there can still be a lot of joy and happiness this holiday season.

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