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Brandon M.
Brandon M., Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 12237
Experience:  Attorney experienced in all aspects of family law
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My wife has one son from her previous marriage. They divorced

Resolved Question:

My wife has one son from her previous marriage. They divorced in 2003 and my wife and her ex-husband both were chinese citizen at that time-however, the son was born in America and my wife and her ex-husband both are U.S. citizen now. Her ex-husband has been taking care of him in china.
Recently, her ex-husband just moved back to America in California with their son. My wife's been living in Georgia, so she wanna give her son to visit and now her ex-husband refuses to giva her the address where her son's staying and dont even let him talk to my wife over the phone. My wife has started to get some legal advice but every lawfirm in Georgia she contacts says they can't help her because her son is in California-even we dont know which city exactly- and tells her to find a lawyer in California.

However, we both never lived in California, dont know which one would be good one. We both have totally no idea where to start. How to find legal help from California even we dont live there?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Brandon M. replied 1 year ago.

Brandon M. :

Hello there.

Customer:

hi

Brandon M. :

Hi, thank you for your question.

Brandon M. :

You said that you don't know the city where he resides. Do you know the county in California, or the general region within the state?

Customer:

no idea we just assume he's in california now because her ex-husband's girl friend contact to my wife and her phone number is XXXXX number. And also, when they bring my wife's son to the U.S., they need some paperwork from my wife and that they give her an address which is in California.

Brandon M. :

Even though you don't have their location right now, do you have any way of locating your wife's son or her ex-husband?

Customer:

no there is no way now, only can assume based on their phone number and the address they gave when they filed the form for brining a child to the U.S.

Brandon M. :

In what city was the address that they gave you?

Customer:

my wife should know but she's out right now i'm calling her but no answer so far.

Customer:

does it make any difference depends on which city even within in california?

Brandon M. :

For purposes of knowing where to start, it does. The family laws are uniform throughout California, but a Los Angeles law firm isn't going to be able to help her in San Francisco.

Customer:

oh i see

Brandon M. :

That said, please allow me to explain some of the legal issues here:

Customer:

okay

Brandon M. :

Basically, before any action can be taken, the whereabouts of the child have to be determined. The child's home state has to be determined so California or whatever the state may be can establish that they have jurisdiction to make a custody or visitation order. Likewise, the parent has to be served with a copy of the court filing, so the individual has to be located.

If it is known that the child is in California with the parent, there are laws in California that generally require the allowance of visitation, so it is possible to make it a law enforcement matter even without filing for custody in that state. However, if they can't determine where the parent or the child is located, even then no action can be taken. If the parent absconded to Canada with the child 6 months ago, for example, it would likely be that no U.S. court could intervene.

So it's unfortunate, but your wife is really working with very little information here. My recommendation would be to hire a private investigator in the city of the last address that you had for the other parent. A private investigator would have access to tools and resources that would maximize your chances of locating the other parent and child quickly. Once the parent and child's whereabouts are ascertained, you could then find a local attorney to file for a custody order.

Brandon M. :

Does that make sense?

Customer:

yes.

Customer:

so whatever she takes any legal action, she needs to find out where they exactly living?

Customer:

not only which city, full adress, you mean?

Brandon M. :

A full address, or even just where the person can be physically found. If the parent's work address is determined, for example, that would be usually good enough.

Customer:

in the worst scenario, if she can't find out their address, thers's nothing she can't do about it?

Customer:

like a filing for a missing child case or kidnap?

Customer:

and also, if she finally got the physical address, can she then go visit that location without any notice? since there's chance the ex-husband's gonna ignore her phone call.

Customer:

for example, if she's right at the door and her ex refuses the answer the door or bring her son out to the door. then, can she call the police? does she have a right?

Brandon M. :

I would first say that they can likely be found with the help of a licensed Private Investigator. That said, whether additional action can be take depends on what information can be obtained. If you can't even verify with certainty the home state of the child, it is ordinarily very difficult to accomplish any legal action. But I emphasize again that a PI can usually locate someone.

As for visiting the physical address, as long as there is no court order prohibiting the visit (such as through a restraining order), assuming that she does not intend on harassing, trespassing, or threatening anyone, it would ordinarily be legal to do so. I might not recommend such a visit until after a child custody petition has been filed and served, but it would ordinarily be legal to visit, yes.

Customer:

so, no lawyers in california can help our situation till we got the actual address, right?

Brandon M. :

A California lawyer would help you prepare for when the child's whereabouts are determined, so action could be taken immediately, but a California attorney would likely use a PI to locate the child and the parent.

Brandon M. :

I would not discourage you from working with an attorney now, and I could help you find someone in the area where the last known address was, but there are normally few options available until the location of the parent and child can be determined.

Customer:

i just spoke to my wife over the phone, the address on the form is the old address not even CA. its MD. and she told me thats the place where my wife and ex used to live. So I guess im gonna suggest her to hire PI, at least we got the phone number which is Riverside, CA and the copy of passport of ex-husband and her son.

Brandon M. :

That is a good place to start. Is the passport a U.S. passport?

Customer:

yes

Customer:

and also, i have one more question

Brandon M. :

There is a lot that can be done with that information--the phone number, the passport information, etc.

Brandon M. :

I am glad to answer your question. Go ahead.

Customer:

once got the address and starting the custody case,

Customer:

they both were chinese citizen when they got divorce

Customer:

so they file a divorce in a chinese court.

Customer:

at that time, they both agreed on she got the custody.

Brandon M. :

Ok.

Customer:

but she didn't live with her son, she was illegal status in the U.S.

Customer:

she stayed in the U.S. by herself and she sent her son to her parents in china.

Customer:

after about 5 years, her ex concerned and complained about her son's well-being and at the same time her mother got sick.

Customer:

so she gave up her custody and hand over her son to ex-husband.

Customer:

after that, her ex has been taking care of her son till now.

Brandon M. :

Ok.

Customer:

so if she goes to the family court in CA, does those kind of situation affect their custody decision?

Brandon M. :

The U.S. does not have a child custody treaty with China, so any order of the Chinese courts regarding child custody is not enforceable in the United States, and vice versa. In the United States, child custody and visitation is ordered based on the best interests of the child, regardless of what happened in China. Also, the fact that your wife was illegally in the U.S. for a time is irrelevant.

Customer:

so, whatever they decide about a child custody in the past in other country doesn't affect the process a child custody case in a family court in the US?

Customer:

nothing to do with the new case at the court later on?

Brandon M. :

Not with every other country, but with China that is the case. There is no treaty for child custody with China. Any child custody order made there is non-binding in the United States.

Customer:

so later if both parents want their son in their custody, how the judge gonna decide which side?

Brandon M. :

Child custody is decided based on the best interests of the child. What is best for the child is different for every case.

Customer:

ok

Customer:

one last question.

Customer:

so, the only way she can contact her ex is now his girlfriends phone number.

Customer:

and my wife talked to her on the phone several times, she was very kind to my wife untill her son came to the US.

Customer:

they asked each other what they do for a living and she said she's in massage business.

Customer:

and actually my wife googled her phone number the illegal sexual massage advertisement came out right away with that number

Customer:

she was surprised at first and thought must be some mistake since she was very polite.

Customer:

but right after her son came over to the US and she asked to talk to him over the phone, they her ex and girlfriend change their attitude compeletly.

Customer:

at first they said her son's busy many things to prepare for the new semester, and my wife kept asking, then stop answering my wife's call

Customer:

and they call my wife back when she was bust at work left messeage cussing in chinese.

Customer:

thats why my wife's so worried and angry she couldn't believe her son's with someone like her.

Brandon M. :

Ok.

Customer:

heres the question, so since they are ignoring my wife's request. she's thinking about reporting the business to the local police

Customer:

in my opinion that's not the good idea doing so this time.

Brandon M. :

The question is whether to report them to the police?

Customer:

yes, reporting whatever the illegal activity under this couple makes the situation better?

Customer:

like more chance to locate her son and furthermore better position when they fight for a child cutody in the court?

Brandon M. :

The business could be used to lead you to the girlfriend, which could be used to lead you to your wife's ex-husband, but your wife wants to protect her child from any danger. She can report it any time she wants, but she can't undo a report once she's made it. It's her decision whether to report or when to report. I can't decide for her.

Customer:

that's where im worring about, if they get in trouble, her son could get in trouble, too.

Customer:

i think thats all i wanna know.

Customer:

thank you for the time and the answers

Brandon M. :

It was my pleasure. I'm glad that you are satisfied and that I was able to help.

Customer:

you have a goon night.

Brandon M., Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 12237
Experience: Attorney experienced in all aspects of family law
Brandon M. and 8 other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you

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