You’ve probably either heard of people threatening to take the kids, or seen it happen in movies and television shows. Unfortunately, it does happen to some people. If you’ve been on the receiving end of such threats, you may be wondering whether or not there’s anything you can do to prevent such an occurrence, and what you should do if such an event really does happen.
It Depends on the Circumstances
Whether or not your spouse can legally run off with the children will depend heavily on your circumstances. If you and your ex are still married, and you don’t have a court order detailing custody arrangements, your ex may be able to take the children wherever they wish without notifying you. If you and your ex do not have a court order dictating who will have custody at what times, your ex may be able to take the children as they see fit, and prevent you from contacting the children. Furthermore, each state has its own individual laws regarding situations such as the aforementioned. So where you’re located may also play a role in whether or not your ex can legally take the children without notifying you. However, taking the children without notifying the other parent may have significant ramifications in a custody battle. If there is no good cause to take the children without notifying the ex, the court may look down upon this behavior when determining a custody order. Even threatening to take the children is inadvisable. Threatening to take the children establishes a perceived intent to do so. If the court feels as though one parent is likely to interfere with the parent’s relationship to the child, the interfering parent could have a more difficult time getting custody.
The Importance of a Court Order
If you don’t have a court order, neither parent has a legal obligation to allow the other parent to see or communicate with the children. This is not to suggest that this is an advisable course of action. Using children as a tool or weapon is not a good look in a custody dispute. If you have concerns that your ex will interfere with your ability to see your child, it’s important that you get a court order as soon as possible. If your ex has already left with the children, and will not allow you to see them, it’s likely in your best interest to speak with an attorney immediately as time will be of the essence. The longer you go without acting the less the court will consider it to be meaningful or urgent. The longer that your children live with your ex full-time, the more difficult it will be to obtain custody. The courts tend to be differential to a status quo where a child is thriving. If you do have a court-ordered parent-time schedule, your ex cannot legally refuse to allow you to exercise the parent-time awarded to you. If your ex is refusing to allow you to see your children during your court ordered parent-time, you should contact your attorney immediately for further advice. It may be appropriate to notify the police and/or seek court intervention to enforce the order.
If your ex has run off with the children, and is refusing to answer your calls, or tell you where they’re located, it may be a good idea to contact your attorney before going straight to the police.
This is especially true if you don’t have a court order stating that you have a right to see your children during a specific time. Parents have to weigh the benefit versus the harm of involving police. If the children are exposed to police involvement or recognize that one parent is calling the police on the other, it could cause more trauma or mental strain on the child. In the event you do contact the police it’s best to fully explain the situation to the officer and then consider options provided by them.
If Your Spouse Is Threatening to Take the Children
If you believe your spouse may run off with the children, it’s best to contact an attorney immediately, preferably before they actually do run off with the children. Doing so may allow for action to be taken to avoid such an event. If your spouse ends up crossing state lines with the children, and you don’t know where they’re located, it may complicate your case–especially if your ex and children are gone long enough to establish residency. This can make a custody battle particularly difficult if the children are very young.
Hiring an Attorney
If you have concerns about parental alienation, consulting an attorney could improve your situation. At CoilLaw, our attorneys are experts in high-conflict divorces and custody disputes. If you’re ready to have someone advocating for your best interests, contact CoilLaw today to set up an initial consultation.