What Are Your Options if the Other Parent Abducts Your Child?
Issues involving child custody understandably provoke a lot of emotion for a parent that can sometimes lead a person to make irrational decisions out of fear and frustration. The possibility that the other parent could abduct one’s child is the fear of every single and divorced parent, and while rare, it does happen in cases where parents cannot agree on how to divide time and responsibilities. Generally, parents have an unfettered right to see and travel with their children, but this freedom is curtailed once a divorce is pending or an existing child custody order is in place. In these circumstances, a parent’s right to a child is dictated by the court, and violations of court orders bring significant consequences. Parents in the unenviable position of knowing or suspecting a former partner or spouse abducted, or plans to abduct, their child need to take quick action in order to recover the child as quickly as possible. One recent news story that highlights one case of parental kidnapping involves a Broward man who failed to return his son to the boy’s mother in California per their custody agreement two months ago. Florida law enforcement is currently looking for the boy and his father, but their whereabouts are unknown. A discussion of when law enforcement will get involved with locating a child taken by a parent, and the legal options parents have to recover a child when custody is in dispute, will follow below.
When Police Will Intervene
As noted above, police only have the power to intervene when a parent takes a child if there is a court order that is being violated. Otherwise, any parent is free to take their child anywhere they choose. In this situation, the most a parent could do is file a missing person report once the child is gone for a considerable amount of time with no contact. Police may attempt to locate the child and verify his/her wellbeing, but they have no authority to return the child. Consequently, if there is a lot of conflict between parents, even if it does not directly involve child-related issues, to be safe, it may be best to initiate a legal action for divorce or paternity so a parent has some protection if the child is taken.
Legal Options for Getting the Child Back
Assuming there is an order or pending legal action before a court, the parent deprived of his/her rights can file an emergency motion to have the child returned, which is typically heard by the judge the same day it is submitted. Further, if the child was taken to another state, courts in other jurisdictions are required to recognize and enforce registered custody orders under the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Act. This means that once a court is made aware of an existing custody order issued in another state, and believes the child to be within its jurisdiction, it must take action to have the child returned if the terms of the court order require it.
Getting a child back becomes much trickier if he/she is taken out the country because other governments do not necessarily have to listen to orders issued by a U.S. court. Thus, if there is credible evidence the parent is planning to flee with the child outside of the U.S., an emergency motion should be filed to block travel with the child before international complications arise. Under these circumstances, a court can require the surrender of passports and/or permission to travel with the child, among other options.
Contact an Orlando Family Lawyer
Protecting your child is the first priority of every parent, and if you are dealing with an ex- spouse or partner that is planning or has taken steps to take your child away, you need a strong advocate to protect your rights. The Donna Hung Law Group represents clients in the Orlando area in all areas of family law. We know how to take quick and decisive action when necessary for the sake of your family. If you have questions or concerns about child custody, contact the office at (407) 999-0099 to schedule a confidential consultation.