Jurisdiction in a custody and divorce case with multiple states
A recent development in a divorce case had a client come into hire us and alleged that his wife had left the state of Oklahoma bound for an alternate state and had taken their child of the marriage with her. He was a little sketchy on the details as to where she was staying exactly, but through a lot of diligent effort on his part we were able to ascertain her location. We then immediately filed a petition for dissolution of marriage along with an application for a temporary order and an application for emergency orders and writ of habeas corpus and the Court in Oklahoma approved all of these.
Here was the interesting thing, depending on what jurisdiction that your spouse or future ex-spouse would flee to, you can encounter many hurdles and obstacles along the way. For instance, when this woman, the opposing party had gotten to an alternate state, she filed for a victim’s protective order. Well, in that jurisdiction if the emergency victim’s protective order is granted then that Court takes emergency jurisdiction over the child and basically says then that the child can not be anywhere near our client despite the fact that the court would have no way of knowing that we had emergency orders for that child to be placed in our client’s custody.
So then you run into the issue of having orders from Oklahoma and having emergency orders from a competing jurisdiction, so what do we do? Again, this creates quite an obstacle. However, through diligent efforts on both our part and our client’s part as aforementioned, we were able to get service upon the opposing party. So when she failed to appear at Oklahoma Counties’ show cause hearing, the Court was able to reach that party and admonish her that should she fail to appear at the following Court date with the child, there would be severe consequences. Those consequences can include being jailed for contempt of court or that her actions would be taken into account when the court would determine custody and visitation.
As such, eventually the woman did return to our jurisdiction and we were able to have our show cause hearing and our client was actually granted primary custody of his daughter. So, interesting topic in divorce and something that is becoming more and more prevalent as people move around especially during the throws of a divorce.