My niece and husband live in a small Oklahoma town. He works out of state and is gone 10 days at a time in Wyoming. She wants to file for divorce and would like to relocate to Colorado where she has family and a support system. He also has family in Colorado. She came for a visit last week and he is demanding she return home immediately or he will file kidnapping charges even though he knows where she is. What can she do to protect herself and how can she determine if there are any attorneys listed in both state bar assoc for Colorado and Oklahoma?
It sounds like your niece has a child with her husband. I think it would help if I discussed some of the requirements for divorce before saying whether moving to Colorado to file would be a good idea or not.
Before a person can file for a divorce, they must live in the state for a certain amount of time. Oklahoma also has a requirement to spend a certain amount of time in the county in which one files (6 months in-state, 30 days in-county). I don't know what Colorado's requirement is, but she needs to know the answer to that before she moves, as her estranged husband will still be able to file for divorce in Oklahoma between her departure and meeting Colorado's residency requirement.
Since it sounds like there's at least one child involved, the UCCJEA/PKPA will play a factor. The UCCJEA is a state-level uniform statute, enacted in pretty much every state and territory in the US. It describes how jurisdiction to enter child custody orders must be followed where more than one state attempts to claim jurisdiction. Put simply, a state may not exercise jurisdiction over a child who has lived in the state for less than six months, if the child is coming from a different state. The PKPA is the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, which empowers the federal courts to enforce a valid exercise of jurisdiction over a child in any state, territory, or district in the US (and also internationally through the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction).
Basically, if Oklahoma has home-state jurisdiction over the child, and your niece takes the child to Colorado, your niece's estranged spouse can immediately file for divorce in Oklahoma, demand emergency custody in Oklahoma, and have the child brought back from Colorado to Oklahoma. If a Colorado court wants to exercise emergency jurisdiction over the child before the child has lived in Colorado for six months, it will have to get permission from the Oklahoma court to do so.
Put simply, your niece needs to discuss this in detail with a local attorney and a Colorado attorney to properly weigh her options before she acts. The paragraph immediately above this one explains what the worst-case scenario is for her if she leaps before looking.
Years licensed, work experience, educationLegal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awardsLegal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagementsDiscipline