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Jurisdiction can be everything in child custody cases

When a Pennsylvania parent anticipates a nasty custody battle, it is absolutely imperative to take an aggressive stance early on in the divorce process. That means making choices that are in line with one's own interests, often after a great deal of research. One issue that can make or break a child custody case involves jurisdiction. Parents who have options when it comes to where to file their case could gain a significant advantage in the overall process.

For example, some families maintain a residence in two separate states. This can allow either party to file for divorce in the state that offers the most favorable child custody laws. In many ways, the parent who files first has the advantage and may be able to choose the state in which the case will ultimately be heard.

For other families, even temporary living arrangements can create a jurisdictional opportunity. If a couple plans to relocate because of a job change, one parent will often begin that process while the other stays behind to handle the sale of the home or finish out the school year. During that time, either party could file for divorce and thus select the jurisdiction where their case will likely be heard.

Understanding the pros and cons of various jurisdictional opportunities can be challenging. The best way to proceed is to sit down with a child custody attorney and discuss whether filing in Pennsylvania offers the best chance of a favorable outcome. This is the first of many important decisions that must be made throughout the child custody process, and one that could shape many of the decisions that follow.

Source:, "Jurisdictional Challenges More Complex in Divorce and Child Custody Actions", Carson Epes Steinbauer, Aug. 21, 2017

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