There are arguably no situations more pressing or serious than those involving the custody of your children. In the context of divorce, determining child custody is often the most contentious aspect of the entire lawsuit, and despite issues of property division and alimony often becoming hotly contested issues in their own right, both parents often find themselves fighting with their greatest vigor to protect their right to control the upbringing and development of their children after the bonds of legal matrimony are finally dissolved. If the parents never married, disputes over child custody can become the sole contested issue in a legal dispute. Under Tennessee law, child custody can become an issue in a myriad of different family law proceedings.
Nevertheless, while many parents may think that custody disputes are something that always get resolved at the local courthouse, legal disputes over child custody can often traverse several states or even several countries. To make matters even more complicated and pressing, one parent may take physical custody of the children without the knowledge or consent of the other parent, and it may not even be clear where the children are located or who is with them at the time a parent wants to file a legal action for custody in such exigent circumstances.
For example, imagine a situation in which you have been married to your spouse for approximately fifteen years and you have two minor children, ages twelve and fourteen. One day, after working long hours, you come home to find a note from your spouse saying, “I just can’t take this anymore. I’m leaving and I’m taking the kids with me. I think we may eventually stay with my parents but I’m not sure when. Don’t try to follow us.” After reading the note several times over, you frantically search the house only to find that both of your children are gone, many of their clothes are missing from their closets, and neither the children’s passports nor suitcases are anywhere to be found. In what seems like the blink of an eye, your children are gone, and you don’t know when – if ever – you may see your children again. What can you do?