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Famous couple's child custody matter touches Arizona

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Arizona Senator John McCain chose as his vice presidential running mate the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. At the time Palin had several young children, including a teen-aged daughter named Bristol. At times during McCain and Governor Palin's failed run for the White House, however, Bristol Palin and her then-boyfriend, Levi Johnston, made bigger headlines than her mother.

During her mother's national campaign, Bristol Palin announced that she and Johnston were expecting a baby. The couple later welcomed a son into the world but their young relationship did not last. After their separation, Palin and Johnston have stayed in each other's lives as co-parents to their now seven-year-old child.

Recently, the former couple has been in the news over disputes regarding child custody and visitation with the child. Particularly, Palin previously sued Johnston for sole custody of their son due to Johnston's alleged failure to make regular visits with the child. While the pair never finalized a custody deal over Palin's suit, Johnston later claimed that Palin had taken the child to Arizona on several occasions without securing his permission for the trips. Since the initial custody lawsuit had not been finalized by the court, the young pair had to come up with a new custody order to stipulate the terms of their responsibilities to the child.

The Palin-Johnston story highlights several important considerations when it comes to child custody. First, it is generally a good idea to have a custody plan in place and formalized by a court in order to remove questions of propriety from how parents expect to spend time with their kids. A hearing or series of hearings can address these issues. Second, parents should remember that interstate travel with a child subject to a custody order can be more complicated than travel with a child without one in place. Allegations of kidnapping can arise when one parent takes a child out of state without the other custodial parent's permission.

Source: Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, "Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston back in court to discuss custody, child support," Brian O'Conner, Dec. 18, 2015

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