If your child’s other parent takes your child out of state without your consent, you can understandably feel powerless and concerned. Legally, this may be a form of kidnapping, and you need your child safe at home where they belong.
You are aware that you have legal rights, but you may not know where to turn in this situation. Here is a broad overview of the steps you should take to secure rightful custody of your child. This is meant for serious situations.
California’s Penalties for Parental Kidnapping
Under California law, it is illegal for a person to take or detain that child without legal custody, even when they are the child’s parent. Any individual convicted of this offense may be charged with a felony punishable by up to three years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
The law further states that any individual found guilty of a second or subsequent violation may be punished by an additional four years in prison.
California parents who take their children across state lines could face harsher punishments than if they stay within state borders. Parental kidnapping is a crime against the state itself. Therefore, it is prosecutable under federal law as well.
Contact a Local Law Enforcement Agency
Before you do anything else, let the police know what’s happening. Doing so protects you in case your former partner attempts to spin the situation, accusing you of wrongdoing.
The California police can use their resources to track a person’s location. This includes monitoring cell phone records and credit card statements. In the best-case scenarios, they can reunite you with your child quickly and safely.
Reach Out to Your Former Spouse's Relatives or Friends
Try to reach out to these acquaintances and keep the lines of communication open. They may be able to provide important particulars on the other parent’s location or destination.
If they are cooperative, these acquaintances could also help reason with the other parent. With love, understanding, and familiarity, they can help you talk the other parent “off the ledge,” getting your child back home safely.
Engage a Private Investigator if Necessary
A private investigator can help track down your child. They have access to public and private databases that are not open to the general public, and many will use sophisticated techniques to locate missing persons. When locating your child is urgent, engaging a private investigator could be your best course of action.
Generally, private investigators also possess knowledge of the legal issues surrounding parental rights. This may help them present evidence that you can use in court proceedings.
File an Emergency Custody Order
Contact your attorney and begin the process of filing for an emergency custody order. This will help ensure that you maintain a legal and secure relationship with your child until any further court hearing can be arranged. Even if your child is not with you at the moment, this order may ensure your legal custody, which will help you when further action is necessary.
Get Help from a Skilled Attorney
After contacting the authorities, get professional legal advice right away to help you determine your next steps. An attorney can evaluate your situation, provide an explanation of federal and state laws, and offer potential solutions for resolving the issue.
If you’re facing a parental kidnapping, and you need your child home safe, The Law Offices of Andrea Schneider is here to help. Contact us right away by calling (619) 304-8499. We are also available online.