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Jurisdiction over custody modification when parents live in different states

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One of the most confusing aspects of child custody cases can be where the case should be filed when the parents live in different states. Generally, in regards to custody modification actions, the law limits a parent’s ability to terminate the continuing jurisdiction of the court that made the original custody determination in order to prevent the noncustodial parent from trying to use his or her “home jurisdiction advantage” to modify custody to the disadvantage of the custodial parent. There is, however, one exception to this general rule which provides that a Georgia court”has temporary emergency jurisdiction [to make a child custody determination] if the child is present in this state and . . . it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child . . . is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.” O.C.G.A. §19-9-64(a).

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed this issue in Taylor v. Curl (A09A0749). In that case, subsequent to the parties’ Jackson County divorce, the mother moved with the children to Florida and the father moved to Walker County. While the children were visiting the father, he filed a petition for temporary and emergency custody of his children in the Superior Court of Walker County, citing mistreatment and abuse of the children by their mother. The mother appealed arguing that Walker County was not the proper venue for the custody modification. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling granting temporary custody to the father, thereby affirming jurisdiction. Since the father met the two requirements outlined in O.C.G.A.§19-9-64(a), the trial court properly exercised temporary, emergency jurisdiction.


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