Pregnant Mom Permitted to Relocate: New York Has Jurisdiction to Determine Inter-State Custody

DivorceLast week, I wrote about Bode Miller’s interstate custody dispute in which a New York Family Court’s ruling was reversed; the appeals court announced that an expectant father has no right to restrict a pregnant woman’s travels or ability to relocate with the unborn child.

Since my blog post appeared, the parties appeared in New York County Family Court and Miller was ordered to turn the parties’ child over to the mother. It is not clear what transpired to justify a change in temporary custody; Miller was awarded custody in the overturned order. During the time Miller had custody, the mother had limited access to the child.

The case on appeal only dealt with the jurisdictional issue where the custody case should be litigated. The Appellate Division ruled that under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”), New York was the child’s home state and that the case should be heard and tried in New York.

The UCCJEA is a uniform law, applied in all fifty states, to determine which state has a most compelling interest to decide interstate child custody disputes.

This case garnered attention because Miller, prior to the child’s birth, filed for custody and to establish paternity in California. In the New York custody case commenced after the child’s birth, the court criticized the mother for relocating to New York while pregnant. The decision was reversed on appeal. In doing so the appeals court announced that a putative father had no right to limit or restrict the travels of an expectant mother.

Both the New York Times and the Daily News have featured articles demonstrating just how ugly a custody case can become.

In a blog post, Bode Miller’s new wife, “contrasted their ‘loving and balanced family’ with Ms. McKenna’s heavy reliance on child care.” McKenna, on the other hand, disclosed that Miller refused to attend the child’s ultrasound and apparently did not want the child, texting “U made this choice against my wish.”

With the jurisdictional now issue resolved, if some parenting time agreement is not reached, this will be typical custody case, played out in the tabloids, with both parents slinging mud at each other. The more dirt dished, the harder it will be for the parties to co-parent and the child will bear the scars of this fight

 

 

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