Question: My ex wife and I have been divorced for 18 months and it involved two kids. Our divorce decree and final agreement is filed in Rogers County Oklahoma. I now live in Arizona and have since the separation in May of 05. This summer my son came to visit and he has been asking his mom if he could live here and she gave me written and verbal permission that he could and now he has been here for 3 months with the agreement that we would modify the final agreement and child support. He is enrolled in school and school activities and after school activities and is doing very well. She is now wanting him to come back to Oklahoma and I want to file documents to keep her from doing this........can I do it here in Arizona or does he have to be here for a certain amount of time? Where can I go to get more info on the net?
Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), Oklahoma reserves exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over child custody matters unless that State voluntarily surrenders it to Arizona. It doesn't matter how long the child has lived here. The "six month" rule only controls when no other court has previously entered a child custody order. The Arizona equivalent of the "exclusive and continuing jurisdiction" law can be found at A.R.S. § 25-1032. When reading this statute, remember that it is Oklahoma's version of this law that will control (since it is Oklahoma that issued the original child custody decree), and that phrases such as "a court of this state ..." refer to the court in Oklahoma - not Arizona!!!
There are limited exceptions to the rule concerning exclusive and continuing jurisdiction (e.g. both parents have abandoned Oklahoma), but none would seem to apply to your case - at least as you have explained it above. Take the high road. Always. Your smartest (and cleanest) strategy would be to file a motion - in the OK family court that originally granted your divorce decree - asking for permission to relocate your child to Arizona, and asking the OK judge to modify custody and parenting time as a result. You could also consider filing an additional motion asking Oklahoma to transfer jurisdiction to Arizona on the grounds that the latter has become a more convenient forum. This way, future hearings would be conducted here in AZ. But three months is not a very long time to win a transfer like that. In any event, it is not a good idea to simply file a petition here in Arizona and thumb your nose at the State of Oklahoma. There is no apparent and immediate threat to life or limb that would justify an Arizona court's emergency intervention, and you will only offend the very Oklahoma judge who will almost certainly decide the merits of your underlying petition. That's not a good way to kick off litigation in any court!
March 07, 2007