A court case is deemed to begin after it has been filed and served. Until both of those events, the court has no jurisdiction over the defendant. In the situation you describe, the court has no jurisdiction over the dad because he has not been served. If he prepares and serves the mom with his own case, the court will have jurisdiction over her, and will proceed with the dad's case. However, the mom will respond to the dad's pleadings with her own request for custody anyway, so in the long term it may not make much difference who got jurisdiction first.
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Typically a petition must be filed with the court within 14 days of serving the opposing party. If both parents initiate cases, the court should consolidate the matter at the first hearing (usually by dismissing the later-filed petition). Which case is filed first may affect the parties' standing in terms of who is the petitioner and who is the respondent (if this is the first case--if there was a previous dissolution or parentage case and you are trying to modify the parenting plan, the case number and party designations always stay the same), but there is no real substantive difference. Both parties present proposed parenting plans and evidence in support, and there is no advantage given to either side.
Yes to the first question and No to the second -- a proposed PP is jut that, a proposal and has nor force and effect until it is signed by a Judge.
The information is for general information purposes only. Nothing stated above should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation.
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