Custody battles can be an incredibly dark time for everyone involved. Both sides love and want to maximize their time with their children. Further, underlying a custody battle is often the dissolution of a family, which brings about feelings of hopelessness, disappointment, and resentment. The dynamics that led to the couple’s separation only add fuel to the fire when fighting over custody.
When a custody order is actually entered by a court, parties are required to abide by the provisions of those orders as to the legal and physical custody of the children. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. In the most extreme violation of custody orders, a parent may refuse to return children following their visitation period, keep children away from a parent who is entitled to access, or even abscond with the children. In North Carolina, the courts treat these actions as parental kidnapping.
Why Does Parental Kidnapping Occur?
Parental kidnapping can happen for any reason. Common reasons include:
- Anger at the other parent — Again, there may be an incredibly unhealthy dynamic between parents, which can rear its ugly head when it comes to children. It is not unusual for one parent to try to punish and retaliate against perceived slights by the other parent. In addition, dynamics of domestic violence are also a flag for courts when it comes to custody orders and the potential for parental kidnapping.
- Dissatisfaction with the custody arrangement — When child custody has to be divided between two parents, neither side will come away with exactly what they want. This can become obvious once the custody plan actually goes into effect, and the parents start living the arrangement. One parent may feel like they do not get enough time with their children, or may really feel like the other parent is making bad parenting decisions regarding the children.
- Leverage regarding property division, alimony, or child support. Child custody orders are often one part of a multi-faceted battle between separated couples, which may also include property division, alimony, and child support orders. Sometimes parents withhold visitation or refuse to return children in order to gain leverage and convince the other parent to agree to more advantageous monetary terms. However, this will always backfire as soon as courts become aware of such tactics.
What is Not Parental Kidnapping?
Not all acts of absconding with biological children, or keeping children away from the other parent, constitutes parental kidnapping. If there are no court orders regarding the custody of the children, then both biological parents have equal legal footing to the child and there is no parental kidnapping. In this scenario, if you believe the other parent will take the children, or if it has already happened, your only recourse is to contact an attorney to seek temporary orders from a court.
Remedies for Parental Kidnapping
If you find yourself in a situation where your child has been kidnapped by another parent, or that there is an imminent risk of this happening, you will need legal assistance. Courts take parental kidnapping very seriously, as a parent who violates custody orders in such an extreme manner cannot be trusted to make safe and appropriate decisions regarding children.
Further, if a parent leaves the state with a child, the federal Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJEA) and Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), as well as the laws of North Carolina, make such action illegal and allow other states to enforce North Carolina custody orders. An attorney can help you seek enforcement of custody orders, contempt actions, emergency temporary orders, and modification of existing custody orders, as appropriate to your circumstances.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
At New Direction Family Law, we take child custody orders seriously. If your child has been taken in violation of a court order, or you believe your child is at risk of parental kidnapping, please contact us immediately. Our attorneys have two decades of combined legal experience and will provide you with prompt, aggressive legal representation. We serve Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment, or visit us at our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law