Custody questions regarding out of state

im going to keep this very brief. my sister was just recently granted a divorce here in NC from her husband who resides in Tennessee. She left him over 2 years ago…due to years of mental verbal and physical abuse and there were drugs involved. They lived in TN while married. They have a 13 year old daughter. When she originally left, she took her daughter with her. But her daughter wasnt happy without being able to go to school with her friends, etc. So, they agreed that she could go back to Tennessee and live with her dad. He has never tried to hurt their daughter. Due to the mental physical and psychological abuse my sister endured, it left her severely depressed, therefore, she wasnt as capable of taking care of her at that time, so she felt that listening to their daughter was more important. However, the father plays mind games with BOTH. has turned her daughter against her…the daughter and the father both plays games with my sisters emotions. She is extremely sad because she is not allowed (per the father…NO court orders are in place)…he refuses to let their daughter talk to my sister, hes changed his phone number, the daughter has a phone, but isnt allowed to give the number to her mother, or he will break the daughters phone. She is rarely allowed visits with her child. (per the father) sometimes he will agree, because he wants a break…but then when it gets to that time, he tells my sister that the daughter isnt allowed to come after all. Hes done this to my sister MANY times. She is being cornered to take him to court for visitation…or even custody because of this. My sister has been a resident of NC for a little over a year now. So, its our understanding that she can file the papers here, and have him served. However, I do know in the state of NC mediation must be done first, before any judge will hear the case. My sister is on disability…the father is SUPPOSEDLY on disability…one time he says he is, next time he isnt…hes a VERY compulsive liar, so you cant believe anything he says. So my questions are…since my sister is on a limited income, can she file for mediation without hiring an attorney?? And only hire the attorney if he refuses to come to an agreement? If that can be done, what is the process? or does she have to file everything in TN since the child lives in TN? again…there are NO court orders…no agreements of any kind.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) governs jurisdictional issues in custody cases. Jurisdiction for child custody matters is appropriate in the minor child’s home state, which is defined as the sate where the minor child has lived for 6 months prior to the custody proceeding. If the daughter has been in TN for at least the last six months, it sounds like TN will have jurisdiction. There are a few exceptions to this rule. To learn more about the UCCJEA, read our article discussing which state has jurisdiction in custody cases.

Without a custody order in place, both parents have equal rights to custody/visitation of the child, but the problem is that you don’t have means to enforce those rights if you don’t have custody. It sounds like it is time for your sister to seek an order on custody. She can pursue this by representing her self (pro se), and file a complaint for child custody herself. She always has the option to hire an attorney later if she feels overwhelmed.