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Scarlett Johansson divorce raises child custody issues

Movie fans in Texas have seen actress Scarlett Johansson in many films, and now she has made her real-life drama public after filing for divorce. Her intention to end her two-year marriage to a man from France raises questions about custody for their two-year-old daughter. The law encourages both parents to have regular access to a child, but the celebrity lifestyle of the actress and the potential that the father might want to live with the child in France create barriers to the shared custody arrangements now favored by family courts.

Legal observers have noted that Johansson's filing for divorce stateside likely represents her desire to claim that the child is a resident of this country. By doing this, she might prevent a court in France from ruling on the custody matter. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act grants jurisdiction to the court in the place where a child has lived for the past six months, which in this case would be New York.

If a U.S.-based court decides the matter, then a strong preference for shared custody could direct its ruling. Shared custody for the international couple might prove untenable, especially for a young child who needs to see parents regularly to form attachments. Legal experts believe that the couple would do better to negotiate their terms privately instead of letting a court determine a custody schedule.

When people get a divorce, they have the option of developing a divorce settlement including child custody arrangements between themselves. If the agreement meets legal standards, a family court might approve it. An attorney could represent a parent during these discussions and provide information about parental rights. The attorney could help the client make decisions about important custody issues like holidays and schooling. If negotiations break down, then the attorney could pursue the parent's needs through litigation.

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