Bode Miller lives in San Diego. That’s where he and Sara McKenna dated after meeting one another through the assistance of a high-priced dating service. According to news reports, she got pregnant, he allegedly did not want her to have the baby, and she refused to get an abortion. While pregnant, McKenna moved to New York to attend college. A former United States Marine, McKenna enrolled at Columbia University, with the help of the G.I. Bill. Now Miller wants her to continue the custody battle in the California court system, where he alleges, it belongs. While this sounds complicated and fraught with extreme emotions on both sides, many child custody cases present a great deal of contested issues. It is important to consult with an experienced San Diego family law attorney when confronting any child custody matter.
Before McKenna moved to New York, the dispute over custody had already begun in the California courts. She simply picked up and moved. Miller asked a Manhattan Family Court to assign the case back to California. Just last week, a court referee in New York ruled that the case belonged in California. The referee chided McKenna for moving across the country while custody proceedings were underway. On more than one occasion, McKenna said Miller did not want her to have the baby and wanted no part in raising the child. She even provided text messages sent by Miller indicating as much.
Despite Miller’s initial stance about McKenna’s pregnancy, he nonetheless brought an action in court to obtain some version of custody. In an earlier blog post, we reported on Miller’s efforts to this end. Under the law in California, either parent can have custody of the children, or the parents may have the opportunity to share custody. The judge has the authority to make the final decision concerning custody and visitation but typically, will approve the arrangement (or “parenting plan”) to which both parents agree. If the parents fail to come to an agreement, the judge will make a decision at a court hearing. So far, the San Diego family court has not handed down a custody determination in the Miller/McKenna case. In most contested child custody matters, the judge will not render a decision until after the parents have had an opportunity to meet with a Family Court Service mediator.
McKenna left California before any custody determination was made. As far as picking up and moving away with a child, parents must realize that the laws are complicated in this area and that each case presents a different set of facts. What is particularly relevant in this case, is the generally accepted rule that a custody decision can only be made in one state. Once the first state makes a custody decision, another state cannot make another “initial” decision or modify the existing order. As the case is brought back to California, Miller and McKenna will have to either come to an agreement about custody and visitation or be subject to the judge’s ruling on the matter.
The best avenue for anyone seeking relief in a child custody case is to contact a family law attorney who is fully fluent in the local court’s procedures.
If you are a parent with questions about child custody matters, contact Doppelt & Forney. Mr. Doppelt is an experienced family law attorney and has been representing parents involved in child custody disputes for more than 20 years. Doppelt & Forney serves clients throughout Southern California, including San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista. For a free consultation, contact Doppelt & Forney through our website, or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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