TomKat Divorce Spotlights Forum Shopping in Divorce

The rumors are true, folks.  Yet another celebrity marriage is falling to divorce.  Those two crazy kids, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are getting divorced.  Last week, Katie Holmes filed for divorce from the 49 year old actor.  What is interesting (okay one of the interesting facts) is that she chose to file it in New York instead of California, where Mr. Cruise continues to reside.

This situation actually comes up with some frequency where I practice on the border of Kentucky and Illinois and has several implications when child custody is involved.  Most states by now have passed the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) to bring the states into line with the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act.  While these two alphabet soup pieces of legislation have several provisions, one of the main ones is the determination of the "home state" of the child for determining child custody.  Basically, wherever the child has resided for six months prior to filing the initial custody action is the state that gets to determine who has custody of the child.  In this case, it appears the future ex-Mrs. Tom Cruise has been residing with Suri (the child not Siri the Apple Electronic Assistant) in New York for some time while the Mission Impossible star has remained in L.A.  Assuming the UCCJEA has been satisfied and New York assumes jurisdiction of the divorce, as long as at least one parent or one parent and child continues to reside in New York, that state (i.e. the "home state") will continue to exercise jurisdiction over all child custody issues including visitation.

The same applies in a situation where a mother resides in Kentucky with the child and the father moves across the border to Illinois.  The father could, theoretically, file for and receive a divorce decree in Illinois, but Illinois would not have jurisdiction to decide child custody.  Conversely, in the same situation, but the child moves to Illinois with the father.  The mother could file for divorce in Kentucky and, since Kentucky is the only state in which the child resided for the past six months, Kentucky could assume jurisdiction over the entire case including jurisdiction, absent an emergency.  Unfortunately, many practitioners who "dabble" in divorce are often not up to speed on the intricacies of custody jurisdiction statutes so it is important that you hire an attorney conversant in this difficult topic to protect what is precious to you.