Unthinkable Series - 3 Things You Can Do If Dad Won't Return Your Child
All children benefit from a consistent and continuous relationship with both parents, no matter how they might feel about one another. This continuity gets interrupted if one parent repeatedly violates custody arrangements or downright refuses to return the children after a visit. If you are having trouble getting your co-parent to return your child after a visit, here are 3 actionable things you can do to get your child back as soon as possible.
Try Communication and Compromise First
Conflicts over custody arrangements become even heated when one parent assumes the other parent's motives for violating custody arrangements aren't above board. So before escalating things further, reach out to your co-parent to find out if something came up or if they some assistance with the drop-off after a visit. If they are unreachable, try contacting your co-parent's family and friends to verify that things are okay.
Even though parental kidnapping is a felony offense in Texas, a co-parent has a rebuttal presumption to this offense if:
• The retention of the child was according to a valid court order for custody or visitation;
• Their retention of the child was due to circumstances beyond their control, and they promptly notified you or made reasonable attempts to notify; or
• they were entitled to possession of or visitation with the child and were fleeing family violence or the threat of family violence.
Because you'll likely have to communicate with your co-parent for years to come, starting with communication and compromise is always the best approach to avoid making assumptions and to get custody arrangements back on track.
Call The Police
If you've attempted to compromise with your co-parent and verified that they are not in danger, the next thing to do to secure your child's return is call the authorities.
If your co-parent is refusing to return your child, the chances are that your co-parenting relationship has been on a downward trajectory for some time. Because of this, things will likely escalate quickly if you attempt to get your child back on your own. Instead, call the police for assistance.
Your co-parent will likely be unable to provide a court order showing they have a right to keep your child from you. Without that order, the authorities will return your child, as long as you have the proper custody documentation as well.
It's important to note here that the police may charge your co-parent with parental kidnapping, depending on the circumstances. Texas Penal Code § 25.03 makes it illegal for a parent to abduct a child who is under 18 years of age if:
• Taking the child will violate a court custody order;
• The abducting parent is not the child's custodial parent and takes the child outside of the court's jurisdiction without permission knowing that a suit for divorce, civil suit, or custody case is pending; or
• The abducting parent takes the child outside of the United States with the intent to deprive the legally entitled co-parent of access.
So you may want to prepare your child and make arrangements for their care if your co-parent can't maintain certain parental duties because of their arrest.
Seek Help From the Family Court ASAP
If your co-parent refuses to return your child, it's also likely time to get the family court involved. Consider going back to court to secure a temporary restraining order ("TRO") and a modification to your custody arrangements.
Filing for a TRO will get you into court quickly and can result in a judge modifying an existing order to protect children from potential harm until the court can hold a full hearing. A modification of your custody arrangements can change how your co-parent gets access to your child. The court might limit their visitation rights by requiring supervision or shorting the visitation time with the expressed purpose of hampering your co-parent's ability to keep your child without consent.
If you need help getting your co-parent to comply with your custody arrangements, Angela F. Brown and Associates is here for you. Don't wait one more day. Contact us today so we can help you get your child back as soon as possible.
This is the seventh article in our Unthinkable Series. We'll publish articles about some of the unique custody situations we've encountered in our practice with tips to help you overcome similar challenges during the series. Then we'll host a live Q&A session where you can get your custody questions answered in real-time later in the week. If you have questions about this series or would like to submit a question for our live Q&A, please contact our office here.