– from Chris E. in Kewaskum, WI

Question Details:

I am a father living here in Wisconsin. I have custody nine months out of the year, and my ex-wife has custody for three months during the summer. This has been ongoing for several years. She lives in California, and has failed to return the children to me. She has informed me that she is planning on filing for a change of custody and child support in California. Who has Jurisdiction, California or Wisconsin?

Family Law Attorney Response:

Unless there are allegations of abuse with adequately supporting evidence or similar reasons, it is unlikely she will be able to obtain emergency jurisdiction. Even in the event that she is awarded emergency jurisdiction, the only ties the children have to California are the visitations with their mother. This is not considered to outweigh their ties to Wisconsin, because this is their primary state of residence for several years. I assume they attend school here, so most likely, any custody hearings or trials would be held here in Wisconsin.

In the case of Dragoo v. Dragoo, 99 Wis. 2d 42, 298 N.W.2d 231 (Ct. App. 1980), a mother having summer visitations living in Texas had attempted to file for a change of custody and sought support. However, there was no evidence supporting emergency jurisdiction, and the motion was subsequently dismissed based on the lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

I would advise you to seek legal representation right away from an attorney who specializes in family law.

Dan Exner, J.D.

Family Law Attorney

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