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.