The most common form of child abduction is parental kidnapping. Parental kidnapping occurs when a non-custodial parent takes children without the custodial parent’s knowledge or consent. Colorado laws define taking a child as kidnapping, even if the abductor is a parent, if that parent does not have custody or parenting time privileges. If a non-custodial parent unlawfully takes a child, the other parent has available options for the child’s safe return.
Examples of Parental Kidnapping in Colorado
A non-custodial parent in a situation with a court-ordered custody agreement can never be too careful with what he or she does with children. Surprising children at school, for example, might not be a good idea if a parenting time order expressly forbids unsupervised parental visits. Picking children up from school, church, or elsewhere and taking them somewhere – even for ice cream down the road – without the legal right or the other parent’s consent, is parental kidnapping.
One of the most common examples of family abduction is removing a child from the state in violation of a custody order. Some families may live in one state, but have a child custody order from another state. This can present issues, as state officials can only enforce orders from within their state. If you moved to Colorado with a custody agreement from a different state, get a Colorado court order as soon as possible. That way, law enforcement will have the right to recover children and return them to the custodial parent. Otherwise, your ex-spouse may be able to escape liability because of a loophole in the system.
In Colorado, a parent with primary custody of minor children has the right to move out of state with them, without the other parent’s consent. This does not constitute parental kidnapping. However, the non-custodial parent has the right to petition the court to prohibit the removal of children from the state. The courts will hold a hearing to decide whether it should prevent the move or permit it to happen. Blocking the move may occur if the courts believe it is in the children’s best interests.
Colorado is unique in that most states do the opposite: the custodial parent must petition the courts to move out of the state. Note that removing children from the state or taking them elsewhere is not parental kidnapping if the courts have not issued a custody order. If the parents never went to court and received an official custody agreement, it is not kidnapping for one parent to take the children – even without the other parent’s consent or knowledge. Both parents will retain equal responsibilities and rights, until the court says differently with an official custody order.
What to Do About Parental Kidnapping
Finding out your ex-spouse breached a custody order and took physical control of your children without consent can be frightening. If you have already filed for allocation of parental rights and won, then your ex-spouse is in violation of the custody agreement and may be guilty of parental kidnapping. Your first step should be to call the police, especially if you believe your children to be in danger. The other parent could be guilty of 2nd-degree kidnapping, or wrongfully retaining a child under 18 years old. This is a class 5 felony.
Colorado law enforcement will have the power to take steps to retrieve your child as long as you have a state-issued court order granting you custody of the children. If your ex-spouse receives a conviction for parental kidnapping, he or she could face up to three years in prison and $100,000 in fines. The police may ask if you want to press charges, and the city may decide to prosecute regardless of what you say. Once you call the police, the matter is generally out of your hands.