What To Do When A Child Removed or Taken Across State Lines

What you should do when you have child custody orders from another state, and let’s say that the parent who has visitation is here in Colorado and the other parent is not returning the child. What do I do then?

You’ll find that the police here in Colorado are not going to act on another court order from another state unless a Colorado judge has authorized the police to do something.

We’ve been very successful in getting children back to their lawful custodial parent when this happens. The process involves registering a foreign decree, that’s what it’s called, from another state into Colorado so that a Colorado judge can take what they call “judicial notice” of the child custody orders and enter orders for the police to assist you in getting the child back.

It’s a two-step process. Step one is to register the foreign decree from the other state and, two, to seek the Colorado courts ruling that would allow you to use law enforcement in the state to help you get the child back.

Abduction/Parental Kidnapping In Colorado

I want to talk to you a little bit about what you should do when you have child custody orders from another state and let’s say that the parent who has visitation is in here in Colorado and the other parent is not returning the child. What do I do then?

You’ll find that the police here in Colorado are not going to act on another court order from another state unless a Colorado judge has authorized the police to do something. So, we’ve been very successful in getting children back to their lawful custodial parent when this happens.

And the process involves registering a Foreign Decree, that’s what it’s called, from another state into Colorado so that a Colorado judge can take what they call Judicial Notice of the Child Custody Orders and enter orders for the police to assist you in getting the child back.

So it’s a two step process. Step one is to register the Foreign Decree from the other state. And two, to seek the Colorado court’s ruling that would allow you to use law enforcement in the state to help you get the child back.

Return Of A Child

Today I want to discuss with you a frequently asked question that parents raise, and that is how do I get my child back from the other parent when I don’t have any court orders? And typically what happens is that if parents are married, they’re going to file divorce action and the court’s going to then be able to have parenting orders in the divorce.

But when parents aren’t married, there’s an allocation of parental responsibilities action that has to be filed. If you have no court orders entered, and let’s just that the other parent and you have an agreement, where you’re going to share the parenting time, and that other parent says, “Well, I decided that we’re going to move to Denver and I’m going to keep the child.” What do you do? No court orders.

My advice is that you immediately seek to file the petition. It’s called a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities, so that a judge can establish some orders, because without court orders, you’re not going to be able to have a court get a child back into your care or shared parenting care.

I want to discuss with you what parental kidnapping or an abduction is. In order to establish that there’s been parental kidnapping or an abduction, there must be some sort of legal action that’s been filed. Preferably a court order is in place or a summons. Let me tell you what that is. A summons is what would be served on the parties … both parties would be bound by a summons … and it states that a child cannot be removed from the state of Colorado once an action is filed. What this means is that if you have filed a divorce case and you have served the other party, or you filed a child custody case, like a parental responsibilities action, and you’ve served the other party, you’re going to have the process server serve them with a summons that includes an automatic injunction that prohibits that other parent from taking the child away from Colorado without a court order.

A parental kidnapping case or an abduction case means that a parent has violated that court order. A violation of that court order means that you could get attorney’s fees against the other parent or sanctions against that other parent. The police typically are not going to act unless a judge in Colorado has issued an order saying that a parent has violated a lawful Colorado order that a child not be kidnapped, removed, or abducted.

One other important feature to mention. An abduction of a child is actually two things, the wrongful taking of a child. Let’s suppose you have parenting orders and it says every other weekend, and the other parent shows up and takes the child out of school on a Wednesday. That’s an abduction. Let’s say that the other parent is supposed to return the child to your care on Christmas Eve at 4:00, and that parent says, “Forget it. I’m not giving the child back.” That’s called a wrongful retention of a child, and that’s also an abduction of a child, and you should hire an attorney to immediately file an emergency motion to get the child back.

Shayne Law Gets Child Safely Returned To Rightful Parent in Child Custody Matter

On Monday, a young parent hired Gordon Shayne to represent her in an emergency. The other parent had wrongfully kept the child and did not follow the court orders. Gordon Shayne prepared the necessary motions that were filed that same day, and which requested the assistance of the police to immediately return the child. The Court agreed with Attorney, Gordon Shayne, that when a parent does not follow court orders for the return of a child, it was both, an “emergency” and that the child was in “imminent danger.” When the judge entered the Court Order, the day after Attorney, Gordon Shayne, filed the motions, the child was returned to its rightful parent with the assistance of local police.

“The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”
– Oliver Wendall Holmes 1881

Contact Shayne Law if you have any questions.

Abduction

What happens when a parent takes children out of Colorado with the intent not to return them to Colorado? I’m not talking about vacations or plans to see grandma over Christmas vacation, I’m talking about a parent who is sharing custody with the other parent and puts the kids in the back of the car in the middle of the night or takes them to the airport and they fly out of town and they have, essentially mother has abducted the children from the other parent.

In those kinds of situations one of the things that the court is going to look for is whether or not there is an active case that’s been filed in the court. In a case where parents have never been married but they share parental responsibilities of children and they’ve never had any court orders entered a case can be filed called an allocation of parental responsibilities that protects the parents from having one or the other abduct or take the children out of Colorado without a lawful court order. This is very important to parents who fear that the other party may pick up in the middle of the night and take the children to see family like their parents who live in another state without the permission of the other parent.

Colorado’s law requires that before a child or children can be removed from the state of Colorado that they do so by either obtaining a court order or a signed written consent authorization from the other parent to relocate the children from Colorado.

Abduction Attorney in Colorado

What action should a parent take when a child is taken from Colorado with the intent to not return the child ever again?

When these kinds of things occur, where a parent permanently relocates or removes a child from Colorado, an extremely well qualified lawyer should know what can be done immediately! There is a proper way to get this kind of matter before a judge as an, emergency!  A permanent relocation or removal of a child from Colorado is not the same as a parent taking a child on a trip or vacation, or a road trip to see a grandparent. A permanent relocation or removal of a child from Colorado by a parent, means that the parent or someone else has intended to take the child away from the other parent, “permanently,” and with no intent that the child be returned to Colorado. This is the kind of event that the Family Court considers extremely serious and harmful to the well-being of the child.

Many years ago, in a case where a child custody order had already been entered when the parents divorced, the child was ordered to live in Colorado with her mother and for the father to have parenting time with the child. The father hired me and told me that the child’s mother had taken the child to see her parents in Tennessee on a summer vacation while school was out. The mother told dad, that she would be driving for the trip and would be back in Colorado one week before school started in the fall. When mom and the child never came back, not only did I file an emergency motion with the court, but I was successful in having the Colorado judge enter an order authorizing law enforcement in Tennessee to take physical possession of the child for return to her father’s physical care. The Court also issued an order that changed the primary parent from mother to father and awarded attorney’s fees against mother as well.

I have seen many wrongful removals where the offending parent places the children in the back of a car or van, and sneaks away with the intent to hide the children’s whereabouts from the other parent.  Sometimes, this follows a verbal altercation between mom and dad or some domestic disturbance.  The hiding of children while removing them from Colorado, by a parent, is generally not a crime because both parents are entitled to parent their children unless there is an order to the contrary. So do not expect local law enforcement to do anything to investigate or halt the removal. Police will routinely tell parents that such behavior is a “civil matter, not a crime”. If you want the civil court to take action, you have to do something of an urgent nature: File an action in the children’s “Home State.” Keep in mind that a Court in Colorado cannot issue emergency abduction prevention orders if Colorado lacks jurisdiction.

Here is what has to be done immediately upon learning that a wrongful removal or relocation by a parent has occurred: Consult with a family law attorney and ask that a custody action be filed. In Colorado, a custody action can be commenced in either a divorce matter or an allocation of parental responsibilities matter. The children must be residents of Colorado for more than 182 days prior to the date that the action is filed, so you can see why time is of the essence. When children have been in Colorado for more than 182 consecutive days, Colorado becomes the children’s “Home State”.  In cases where there is a petition for either allocation of parental responsibilities or dissolution of marriage, the party filing the case will be required to obtain personal service on the other parent who has taken the children. There will be a Summons issued by the court that will not allow relocation of the children without a court order.  This is why it is so important to have the right kind of lawyer representing you if this happens, because you will not want to waste time doing something that does not result in immediate and appropriate legal action. A lawyer who practices family law on a part time basis or a lawyer that practices civil litigation is not the lawyer you need.

An “Abduction” means the wrongful removal or wrongful retention of a child. This means that a violation of the civil laws has occurred. In other words, when there is some act that results in a child being removed from Colorado or where the parent who has taken the child from Colorado hides the child from the other or otherwise refuses to allow that parent to see the child, hear from the child, or have contact with the child. There is a specific Colorado statute which sets out a parent’s specific rights and remedies, which in my experience means that an emergency motion is usually filed so that a hearing before a judge can occur as quickly as possible. I have handled hundreds of emergency hearings and the judges routinely grant the right to hold such emergency hearings within a short period of time.

If a parent knows that the other parent is about to take the children from Colorado without consent, there are also legal actions that can be initiated to halt that kind of action and prevent an abduction from occurring before it takes place. Remember, any consent to relocate or remove a child from Colorado must be in writing and signed by both parents or it is questionable whether such an agreement is enforceable.

Should you or a family member or friend have an emergency regarding the wrongful taking of a child from Colorado, contact me right away to schedule a no cost consultation.