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Child custody case outcome hinges on jurisdiction

As some New Jersey residents may know, a grandmother in Montana is facing an arrest warrant for taking her two grandchildren to a Native American reservation to keep the boys' father from gaining custody. A district court judge in Montana issued a warrant for her arrest on Oct. 7, after issuing an emergency order two days earlier. The order was for the grandmother to bring the children back to their father.

The children resided with the grandmother for several years in Montana when their mother was not able to take care of them. The mother belongs to the Native American tribe as do the two children. The grandmother is not a member of the tribe. According to reports, the children's mother has legal and addiction-related issues and could not care for them. The grandmother said the children's father should not have the boys since there were child abuse allegations. In 2014, the same judge who signed the 2015 arrest warrant said the boys should live with their father in Minnesota.

The grandmother was granted child custody by a tribal judge. The district court's order to return the children to the father are in opposition to the tribal court's order. The attorney for the grandmother is filing with the Supreme Court in Montana, claiming the district court lacks jurisdiction. The father will need to file with the appellate court of the tribe to reverse the tribal custody order.

Although most child custody jurisdictional disputes are not this complicated, questions often arise as to which court should hear a petition when the custodial parent and non-custodial parent live in different states. A family law attorney can often be of assistance in such matters.

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