When your child or children are taken from you, it can constitute a crime such as unlawful kidnapping. However, when you are married and there are no custody orders from the court, it remains legal for your child or children to be taken by the other parent until a court issues other orders. Or, in the case where you are divorced, and the mother has been granted primary custody for the child or children it is not appropriate for the other parent to take them. Conversely, it becomes more complicated when there is joint legal decision making. It is crucially important to have an understanding that primary custody is markedly different than joint legal decision-making.
After parenting time or visitation, the other party (parent) must return your child or children or allow them to be collected. Should they not do this or refuse to do this, it violates court orders which can lead to serious consequences. read on to learn more.
When You Have Sole Legal Decision Making
- When there is a current209A Abuse Prevention Case and there is an order referring to it.
- As an unmarried parent, you have a court order stating you have primary custody.
- When you an unmarried mother without a custody order, but have a court order stating the name of the father of the child or children.
- When you an unmarried mother, and no party has been to court to obtain an order stating who is the father of the child or children.
- Whether divorced or married you are in possession of a court order that states you have primary custody.
When You Don’t Have Sole Legal Decision Making
- You are not married but there is not a custody order in place, it is usually presumed physical custody is shared by both parties
- When a court order says there is shared custody.
Here is what you should do when the other parent keeps your child for longer than they should:
Contact The Police.
- Ask local prosecutors to file criminal charges.
- Ask the Probate and Family Court to file what is known as an enforcement motion.
- If your child has been taken overseas contact the U.S. State Department.
- Reach out to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The Police Can Do The Following:
- Attempt to find your child or children and return them.
- Criminal charges can be filed against the other parent by the local prosecutor.
- They will inform the the National Center for Missing And Exploited Children to assist in finding your child or children.
File Criminal Charges
- A criminal complaint can be filed against the other parent but you will need to go to the criminal clerks office at your local district court and you can inform the local County or District Attorney.
Probate and Family Court
- A petition may be filed to establish custody or paternity depending on whether you are married or not married to the other parent
- A Juvenile or Family Court which may order the other parent to return the child or children to you.
- File a “Petitioner for Contempt”. Jail can be a consequence for the other parent if they do not comply.
Contacting the U.S. State Department
Once contacted, the U.S. State Department is able to assist when the other parent takes your child or children outside US borders.
When the Other Parent Takes our Child but We Are Married and There Is No Court Order of Custody?
It is not a crime when the other parent takes your child or children away from your home when there has never been a court order in place.
Can I Stop The Other Parent from Taking Our Child Out of the Country?
You may request an order from the Probate and Family Court that:
- Positions the name of your child or children on the federal government Do Not Depart List.
- The TSA will not allow your child or children to board a plane if you are on their Do Not Depart List. This is definitely an area where an experienced lawyer can be of huge benefit.
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