Child Custody and Kidnapping

Parenting can be challenging under any circumstances, much less as a divorced parent. Even if your marital relationship ended well, tension can run high, especially when determining child custody and visitation rights.  In many instances, parents are able to put any personal differences to the side and adhere to a regular schedule for the sake of the children.  Unfortunately sometimes emotions take over and one parent takes off with the child, “kidnapping” them.  Continue reading to learn what you need to know if your child has been kidnapped by their parent.

Parental Kidnapping

Parental kidnapping occurs when one parent deprives the other parent of his or her legal right to custody or visitation by illegally taking the child out of the jurisdiction. The first thing to do if your child has been kidnapped by the other parent  is to call the police. Additionally, under the California Family Code, California District Attorneys are empowered to enforce court orders looking for children who have been abducted and return them to the state. This means that the California criminal justice system has broad power to bring home your child. You also should contact an experienced family law attorney to talk about the implications of the kidnapping on child custody arrangements.

Once your child is returned home safe, you will want to either talk with your divorce attorney about (1) establishing a custody and visitation arrangement with the court or (2) making changes in the custody and visitation arrangement.  If you do not already have a custody agreement, speak with your lawyer about filing for custody with the family law court.  This way, visitation and custody are established and approved by the court and if one parent does not comply with the arrangement approved by the judge they will face strong legal consequences.

If you already have a custody and visitation arrangement with the court, it might be time to revisit it.  Hopefully by changing the custody arrangement you will prevent more problems down the road.  You can ask the judge for modifications (such as only allowing supervised visitation with the children for the parent who kidnapped them) or you can ask that they not be allowed to take the children out of the county or state without your written approval. If “parental kidnapping” is a persistent problem, you may want to consider terminating visitation. Typically, judges do not look favorably on parents who abduct their children, and judges might be more likely to rule in your favor. However, it is important to remember that changes in custody are up to the judge’s discretion.

Parental kidnapping can be a frightening experience for both the child and parent.  Hopefully, with the help of a knowledgeable family law attorney, you can do your best to ensure the kidnapping never happens again.

For more information about parental kidnapping and child custody arrangements, contact the expert Los Angeles family attorneys at Walzer Melcher LLP today.

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