Working together to co-parent positively is the ultimate goal for a divorced couple. The custodial parent will typically always have to work with the non-custodial parent to ensure all the components of the child custody order are followed. Following the court order means that dates are scheduled, long weekends and vacations are planned, and drop-off arrangements are made so your children can seamlessly transition between each parent. When the non-custodial parent is uncooperative with the terms of your custody and visitation arrangement, it can complicate things. In some instances, a non-custodial parent could refuse to see their child, or the non-custodial parent could take the child outside of your custody agreement. So, what happens if the non-custodial parent takes your child?
What does it mean when a non-custodial parent takes your child?
First, as you go through your divorce, it’s essential to understand what custodial and non-custodial parents are.
What is a custodial parent?
The court ordered a custodial parent, either the mother or father, to be the child’s primary parent. So therefore, they typically have primary custody, where the parent that the child lives with is taken care of most of the time. This parent also supports their daily physical and emotional needs.
What is a non-custodial parent?
A non-custodial parent will typically see their child on a limited basis or only have visitation rights. The court order will determine visitation rights, including weekdays, weekends, school breaks, and holidays.
So, what happens if the non-custodial parent takes your child? Unfortunately, this is considered parental abduction when a non-custodial parent takes the child without permission, outside their custody terms, or refuses to return the child after visitation.
However, under Texas law, it does have to meet these terms to be considered parental abduction;
- The child must be under the age of 18 years old
- There is currently a pending custody case
- Taking the child violates an existing custody order
- The parent committing parental abduction was not awarded custody
This is a severe legal issue if parental abduction occurs, including felony charges that the non-custodial parent may face. However, the law provides you with ways to get your child back in your custody.
Here are the steps you should take to ensure your child is safely returned.
- First, try to reason calmly and positively with the other parent to see if you can get them to return the child safely. Avoiding a court hearing or contacting authorities is always the best option.
- Second, the court will issue an order for the non-custodial parent to return the child. At this time, the police have the authority to get involved and seek to return the child. Depending on the immediate danger to the child, an AMBER alert may be activated.
- Third, if the child is in immediate danger, contact law enforcement right away.
Additionally, these are some answers to the most common questions our clients have when dealing with parental abduction with our clients.
What should I do if my child could be in physical harm?
If you suspect your child is in physical harm, contact law enforcement, document any finding or proof you may have, and contact your Texas divorce attorney so you can set up a court hearing.
How can I enforce a custody order?
Suppose your co-parent or the non-custodial parent is not following the terms of your custody order. In that case, it’s best if you document any proof that they are not following the order and then contact your Texas divorce attorney so you can set up a court hearing.
The non-custodial parent took my child. Can I change our custody agreement?
Yes, after a parental abduction, it may be in the child’s best interest to seek an adjustment of custody orders, possible termination, or limit visitation rights for the non-custodial parent.
What happens if the non-custodial parent takes my child to another country?
If this occurs, contact law enforcement immediately. They have ways to work with international law enforcement to ensure your child is safely returned.
Working with an experienced Texas divorce attorney
If you need help with recurring issues in your child custody agreement, it is essential that you work with an experienced Texas divorce attorney.
C.E. Borman & Associates is an American Lawyer Top 100 Law Firm.
C.E. Borman & Associates have served the Brazos Valley for over 20 years. Our attorneys and legal staff are committed to straight talk and honest advice.
We provide exceptional value to our clients and often make life-long, remarkable changes that benefit future generations. Contact us if you need a divorce or family law attorney. Call (979) 846-4090.