We have moved since the divorce. Which state's law controls?

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Question:

My divorce was final in Washington. My ex lived in California at the time; now we both live in California. We are having custody, visitation and support issues. Do we follow California laws?

The children live with my ex. I have two other children who are not my ex's now in my care. How will the law work regarding child support for the two with my ex? Our divorce stated I was to pay $300 monthly, but I have not paid; for numerous reasons, my ex does not want the money at this time.

However, he is trying to strongarm me by not allowing me to have any say about our children. He has tried to put "rules" into place, stating if I do not follow them, he will revoke my parental rights at my expense through the courts. What do I do?

Answer:

The Washington court is the only court that can modify your divorce decree. You'll either have to do this yourself or hire a Washington lawyer to file a motion for modification.

As for having your parental rights revoked, that is not easily accomplished anywhere. If the circumstances have changed since your divorce decree, and the judge finds that a custody or visitation change is in the best interests of the children, then the change will be made.

In terms of the child support, the court is likely to hold you liable for the full amount that you should have paid but did not -- called an arrearage -- and issue a judgment that requires you to pay the arrearage in installments, plus whatever your future obligation is, assuming that your ex still has custody.

A word to the wise. Nolo has a book that helps parents figure out how to parent jointly even after the divorce. It is called Building a Parenting Agreement That Works: How to Put Your Kids First When Your Marriage Doesn't Last. The book does presume a willingness on the part of both parents to cooperate in the process or at least to attend a mediation session. Child custody and visitation disputes that are taken to court can harm the children in important ways, not to mention what it can do to one or both of the parents.

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