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Residence a factor in Scarlett Johansson custody dispute

North Carolina residents may have been surprised in January when media outlets reported that the marriage between actress Scarlett Johansson and her husband was ending after less than two years. The couple has a 2-year-old daughter, and legal experts believe that establishing residence for the child will be a key factor in what some fear could be a contentious custody dispute. Speculation about the couple's situation was put to rest on March 7 when Johansson filed divorce papers in New York City.

Establishing residence for celebrities who own several properties is not always straightforward, and some believe that the husband, who is French, will argue this point in court. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, which has been adopted by New York, bases jurisdiction on where the child involved has resided for the past six months. Experts tend to believe that this means the case will be heard in an American rather than a French court.

However, family law judges make child custody decisions based on what is considered to be in the best interests of the child concerned, and research shows that young children fare much better in cooperative parenting situations. Since Johansson and her husband currently share joint custody of their daughter, experts believe that the couple will strive to reach an amicable settlement to avoid a public legal battle.

Experienced family law attorneys may encourage divorcing parents to consider what is best for their children before beginning custody and visitation talks. Court proceedings can be expensive and provide no assurance of a successful outcome. Attorneys could also recommend alternative approaches, such as divorce mediation, when conventional negotiations fail.

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