Unmarried Parents With a Multi-State Custody Dispute - What Could Go Wrong?
Chapter 7 – Just the Facts, Ma’am
“Why do you think Jennifer’s lawyer is wrong about my custody case belonging in South Carolina?” asked my nephew Adam.
“Let me read you this, from the papers I just got served with,” he continued. “It says ‘The minor child and both his parents have a significant connection with this State; inasmuch as the minor child, Plaintiff, and all their respective extended family members live in South Carolina.’
“Well, all that is absolutely true. I’m the only one in the family to ever leave South Carolina, as far as I know” admitted Adam.
“It goes on to say ‘substantial evidence is available in Greenville County, South Carolina, concerning the minor child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships, because in addition to all his extended family members being residents of this state, the minor child’s medical providers, day care providers, and house of worship are all located in Greenville County, SC.’
Adam made a snorting noise. “Some of that might be true now,” he continued. “But Carter still has a pediatrician here in Raleigh.
“Carter didn’t go to daycare here, but that’s because I work from home and Jennifer hadn’t gone back to work yet after maternity leave. I guess he probably is in daycare in South Carolina, now that Jennifer’s working to support her deadbeat boyfriend. But since when has Jennifer darkened the door of a church?”
“I bet her parents have Carter in Sunday School at First Baptist. Which is not a bad move, since the child’s ‘spiritual background’ is one of the factors judges look at when awarding custody. But I’m getting ahead of myself,” I said hastily, hearing Adam beginning to bleat in protest on the other end of the line.
“First of all, remember that the papers you’re holding right now are the Summons and Complaint. They may look like a court order, but they’re not. The Complaint just tells Jennifer’s version of things. A Complaint is a ‘short and plain statement of the facts’ that the Plaintiff, in this case Jennifer, thinks entitle her to whatever she’s asking the Court to do.”
“But those aren’t ‘facts’” protested Adam. “I mean, not exactly. It’s all true, as far as it goes, but it just gives Jennifer’s side of the story.”
“Exactly!” I said. “That’s all a Complaint is – the Plaintiff’s side of the story. And you’ll get to file an equally impressive-looking document, giving your side of the story, when your lawyer files a response.
“But even if all Jennifer’s Complaint says is true, it still doesn’t mean South Carolina is the right place to file this case.
“Her Complaint tracks the language of the UCCJEA that applies when a child doesn’t have a home state. That’s when the Court considers ‘significant connections’ and ‘substantial evidence’.
“But look through the papers you got served with, and see if there’s one that says ‘Affidavit Pursuant to the UCCJEA, SC Code §63-15-346.’ Those are the facts that really matter in this case.”