Family Law (Divorce, Family Relations)/Change of Custody

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Question
My ex-wife and I divorced many years ago in SC. We agreed on split custody with her being the custodial parent. I was in the military and went overseas so she had him all the time except in the summer and every other Christmas. I am now retired from active duty and live in FL. In May of 2011 my ex took a civilian job as a contractor in Afghanistan. She told me I would be getting my son for an indefinite amount of time. I was thrilled. He has been us (wife, step-son, and daughter) ever since. My ex has paid child support to me the whole time she has been gone. Well, she just informed me she will be coming back to the states and is taking a job in Virginia and wants my son back. He has been with me for almost 2 years now and is settled in a routine and he nor I want him to go back. Do I have any rights to try and keep him and change custody since she has been gone so long? Can she just leave for a few years and come back like nothing ever happened and things go back to how they were? I am hoping since he has been with me so long that maybe I have some kind of law on my side. Please shed some light on my situation. She didn't leave due to the military, it was completely voluntary and in a civilian role working for the military. I don't think the service members relief act applies here. Thanks for your time and assistance.

Chris

Answer
You need to do now what you should have done two years ago. File a Petition for Modification of the SC Final Judgment in the state where you and your son has resided for the past 6 months. The fact that your son has resided primarily with you for the past two years and assuming he is well adjusted and performing well in school and the community will make it difficult for mom to regain primary care but if the logistics permit it she may be able to re-establish the split custody arrangement that is currently ordered.

I hope this information was helpful to you, if it was, please do me the courtesy of rating it. Please be aware and advised that this public forum is designed to provide only general information, to give you a basis of legal knowledge. This public forum does not give you attorney-client privilege. You and I have not entered into an attorney-client relationship. I am not responsible for your legal rights and this answer is based solely on the information you have provided in your question and as always, I would advise that you arrange for an in person consultation with an attorney from my firm or another Family Law attorney familiar with Florida Family Law who can analyze the specific facts and circumstances of your case more closely to better advise you. Additional information may be obtained on our web site listed below.

Sincerely,

Daniel Bachert, Esq.
The Bachert Law Firm, P.A.
330 Clematis Street, Suite 222
West Palm Beach, Florida 33401
(561) 653-3951
Palm-Beach-Divorces.com  

Family Law (Divorce, Family Relations)

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Dan Bachert

Expertise

I can respond to questions pertaining to Florida Family Law within the specific areas of Divorce, Child Custody, Child Timesharing, Alimony and Child Support Enforcement/Modification, Equitable distribution, and Inter Family Adoptions.

Experience

Actively practicing Family law in the Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie Counties for the past eleven years.

Organizations
Florida Bar, Family Law Section of Florida Bar, Palm Beach County Bar Association, BNI

Education/Credentials
Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Florida Atlantic University; Juris Doctorate from St. Thomas School of Law

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