When a parent has physical custody of a child (by court order or otherwise), it is a crime for the other parent to abscond with the child. “Parental kidnapping,” or “custodial interference,” as it is called, is a serious offense. Absent a custodial order, how do parents know who has custody?
Parents Who Were Never Married
If a couple never married but share a child, and there is no court order for custody, then the mother has custody unless and until a court steps in and says otherwise. Fathers who desire custody in this situation need to first establish paternity, then petition the court for court ordered custody. If a father without a court order granting custody absconds with a child, the mother should call the police to report the crime.
Married Couples With No Court Order for Custody
In this situation, both parents have equal custodial rights. If married parents separate without filing for divorce, whoever has actual physical custody of the child has custody at that time. However, if those parents do not agree on where the child should live, one will either need to file a divorce action or a custody action to obtain an official document that spells out the formal custody arrangement.
So what happens when a parent in this situation runs off with a child without the other parent’s permission? Although technically this is not illegal, it is certainly not advisable.
When a couple divorces, or one parent petitions the court for custody, a judge will determine who should have custody based on the bests interests of the child. If a parent has run off with a child without permission in the past, a judge will likely be less inclined to grant that party custody.
What to Do If a Spouse or Ex Kidnaps Your Child
If you have already been awarded physical custody, and the other parent kidnaps your child, call the police immediately. They can issue an Amber Alert to help locate the child.
If you are married but there is no court order on custody, then it is not kidnapping. So, what should you do?
First, you can go to family court and file a complaint for custody. You can also file an ex parte emergency Motion for Temporary custody. This means that you testify before the judge, but your spouse does not need to appear before the court. If the judge awards you temporary custody, the police will search for the other parent and serve them with a copy of the order. At that point, they will have to return your child to you, or face criminal charges. You will need to attend another hearing later to determine who has permanent custody.
Unmarried mothers without court orders may have difficulty if a father attempts to leave with the child. The police may not want to assist, because there is no court order in place. Single mothers may need to go to family court first and get a court order that can be shown to the police.
Towson Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Parents Obtain Child Custody in Maryland
If you are having a child custody dispute, the Towson child custody lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles can help you obtain a custody order. To arrange for your free consultation, call us at 443-589-0150 or contact us online today.