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Which court gets to decide an international child custody battle?

Child custody fights can be anguishing, especially if they are drawn out over several years. They can also be complicated, as the parents battle over relatively technical -- but potentially very important -- matters like which state’s courts should handle the case.

Determining jurisdiction can be especially crucial when the parents currently reside in different countries. Child custody laws can vary greatly across international borders, and may highly favor one spouse over the other. Also, arranging for legal council and being available for court hearings taking place thousands of miles from home can be very difficult. So the stakes can be high when one parent wants the child custody dispute to be heard in a New York courthouse, and the other wants it to take place in another country.

That may be the next step in actress Kelly Rutherford’s legal fight over custody of her children, whose father lives in Monaco and has custody most of the year. Rutherford had hoped to establish jurisdiction in California, but a judge in Los Angeles ruled recently that she lacks “sufficient ties” to that state to do so, according to the New York Daily News.

The judge noted that Rutherford had testified that she currently spends most of her time in New York, to make it easier for her to visit the kids in Monaco. The judge did not rule that jurisdiction belonged to that European country, which could give Rutherford the chance to fight for jurisdiction in New York, if she wishes.

Even before the substance of a child custody case can be dealt with, it may be necessary to fight to get the case heard in your state. Having an experienced attorney on your side can make a big difference.

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