Can a father travel to retrieve his children after the mother took them out-of-state without consent?

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Can a father travel to retrieve his children after the mother took them out-of-state without consent?

My wife left the state with my 3 kids without consent or notice while I was working. She’s actively had on on-line affair with a man from IA for 1.5 years. He drove here to FL, picked them all up and drove off while I was away. Can I legally go to I and get my kids back since FL is their state of residency? If not, what recourse do I have for retrieving them and filing a case of reckless or child endangerment?

Asked on July 19, 2011 Florida

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes you can go and pick them up. The fact is that without a court order in effect regarding custody you have has much right to be with your children as your wife does. But in getting them you cannot trespass, threaten or in any other way break the law. Since these situations are emotion filled to say the least they rarely go well for any of the parties involved, especially the children. The best way for you to get them home is for you to go court and file for custody. At that point your wife will be legally compelled to return with the children. If she does not she could be charged with parental kidnapping. During the custody case the judge will determine who the custodial parent should be based on the "best interests" of the children. Even if she is given full custody, you can still try to have the court geographically limit where she can move so that you can maintain regular visitation.

Note:  You should go to court ASAP. If you wait too long she can bring custody proceedings in her new state once she has establishes residency (typically it takes 6 months). Then you would have to go there to defend your parental rights.


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