What can I do if my wife took our kids out of state without telling me and will not come back?

UPDATED: May 31, 2011

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What can I do if my wife took our kids out of state without telling me and will not come back?

Asked on May 31, 2011 under Family Law, Tennessee


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Do you have a legal separation or some sort of existing custody agreement?  If so, then that will control this situation  If an out-of-state move is not addressed in any existing documentation then you will have to go back to court to straighten out this situation (if you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement).

However, if there is no court order in affect, she can take your children out-of-state.  But, you could go to court in TN and obtain an order which will require her to return (with the kids).  If she fails to then return to the state she can be charged with parental kidnapping. 

The best way for you to obtain legal custody is for you to go to court first.  If you get a temporary custody order from the court (a permanent order will be issued at such time as a divorce is filed and finalized).  In deciding who gets permanent custody (and whether or not your wife can move out of state with the children), the court will consider "the bests interests of the children".  

Note:  Don't wait too long to go to court. Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA"), which is the law in 48 states, once the children have been in another state for 6 months, that becomes their "home state" and any custody case would have to be heard in the courts there. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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