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Laura Dale & Associates, P.C.

Are you concerned that your ex may take your child?

Not every divorce can fit into the latest celebrity model of remaining friends and taking the children on vacations together. Some Texas parents may come close by agreeing to co-parent and cooperate with each other. Then there are parents who struggle just to be in the same room together, if that's even possible depending on the situation.

If you fall into this latter group, you may not only be dealing with a highly contentious divorce, but a highly contentious child custody battle as well. You may even fear that the other parent will somehow keep you from your child by abducting him or her.

Can another parent kidnap his or her own child?

Yes -- it's called parental kidnapping. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that parental kidnapping occurs when a stepparent or biological parent wrongfully removes or retains a child in violation of an existing child custody order or fails to take the child back to his or her usual place of residence when one doesn't yet have a custody order.

Of course, many parents threaten to take the kids during contentious court battles out of their own fears that they won't be able to see the children for some reason. However, if the other parent exhibits the following behaviors, he or she may be able to make good on that threat:

  • He or she acts like a victim of the system.
  • He or she exhibits signs of mental instability or abuse.
  • He or she has the means to flee.

It might help to show the other parent that he or she will remain a part of your child's life, which means making sure he or she spends time with your child.

If the worst happens

If the other parent refuses to return the child after a scheduled visitation and won't answer your calls, you may need to take the following steps:

  • Even though police may not be inclined to assist you, call them anyway to start a paper trail, which will be important later. If you provide police with enough evidence that an abduction took place, issuing an Amber Alert may accompany police efforts to locate your child. In the alternative, if you have a child custody order in place, the court may be able to get the police to help you.
  • You should do what you can to maintain contact with the other parent and his or her family.

Hopefully, you won't need to take these steps, but it always helps to be prepared. Document any threats, retain any evidence you may have regarding where the other parent may go, and let everyone who cares for your child know about the possibility.

In the meantime

It may help to discuss the situation with a family law attorney. If you have a child custody order, he or she can review it, advise you of your legal options and list the steps you may be able to take to protect your child.

If you don't yet have a child custody order, it may be time to file for one. In any event, understanding your rights and learning your options by seeking legal guidance may prove beneficial.

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