What can I do if my ex violates the custody agreement by taking our child out of state?

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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Written By: Jeffrey JohnsonUPDATED: Jul 14, 2021Fact Checked

When a custody arrangement is in place, it is legally binding. If one parent violates the terms of the agreement, especially by taking the child to another state, that parent is in violation of the law. He or she can be jailed for parental kidnapping and can face a host of other legal problems. As such, if you find yourself unable to find your child after the other parent skipped town, you do have options. 

Parental Kidnapping

Violation of a custody arrangement can constitute parental kidnapping in some instances. Whether or not your ex’s actions are are considered kidnapping will depend on exactly what he or she did, but as a general matter, moving without telling you of your child’s whereabouts or without getting permission from the court to move or modify the custody order will be considered parental kidnapping. 

This means that once your ex is found, a number of things are likely to happen:

  • He or she may face criminal charges and jail time.
  • The custody arrangement will likely be changed. You will probably be awarded sole custody, and your ex will be awarded supervised visitation or prevented from having any contact with the child at all, depending on the circumstances. 

Taking Legal Action

The first thing you will need to do if your spouse takes your child out of state is to contact the family court and law enforcement where you live. They will assist you in finding your spouse. If they are unsuccessful, you may  wish to hire a private investigator or turn to agencies designed to help find missing children.

Once your ex is found, the child will be taken away and your ex will be extradited back to the state where she violated the law in order to stand trial for parental kidnapping, if appropriate. The child will likely be placed into your custody as soon as he is brought back into the state, at least on a temporary basis pending final resolution of the kidnapping and custody issues. 

If your child has been taken out of state, this is not an issue to handle on your own. Consult a lawyer as soon as possible in order to get help. 

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

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