Being concerned about the safety of your child is completely normal. We can only spend so much time with our children each day and the rest of the time we are spent wondering what our children are up to and how they are being cheated by others. Even with younger children, we have concerns because they are not able to communicate to us their concerns in other worries. No matter the age of your children having concerns over their well-being is natural and to be expected. As a parent myself I can sympathize with you when it comes to you worrying about the state of the world and of our children's place in it.
This is especially true during a global pandemic. Of all the concerns that we have had over the past year regarding the virus and its impact on our society, I think one of the things that we have been concerned about the most is the health of our children and the strength of the institutions that support her kids. On top of this list are schools, churches, and the extracurricular activities that are kids engaging. More than anything, the beginning of the pandemic was spent with schools closing down to protect teachers and students. It has been a great point of solace for many of us to learn that children are not great at passing on the virus and do not appear to face nearly the risk of getting sick that others do.
Getting beyond the immediate concerns that we have surrounding the coronavirus, Some of your parents reading this blog post have long term concerns over the well being of your children. These concerns undoubtedly had to do with their day-to-day health but also have to do with their ability to live secure and happy lives. If you cannot protect your children from harm then you may have the last piece of mind and parents are kids in completely different ways and other parents. For instance, if you were going through a divorce and have concerns over the well-being of your children then you are fighting A2 fronted battle. This can be exhausting both from an emotional and physical perspective.
Many parents who go through divorces express to me that their primary concern in the case is to do right by their children. By this, I think that they mean they want to put aside any issues that they have with their spouse and to make decisions regarding parenting that are geared towards doing what is best for the kids. On top of this, any Community property or financial endeavors on behalf of a parent are even geared towards maximizing return for the parents so that they are better able to manage their time with their kids. Peace of Mind financially translates directly into Peace of Mind from a relational perspective.
They Fortunately rare situation but one that impacts some parents regardless is when there are concerns over one parent removing a child from the home without the consent of the other parent. In an international city like Houston, where we have people from all corners of the globe living and working here, this is an especially relevant concern. The ability to hop on an airplane or cross an international border is well within reach in our city. This means that you as a parent need to be especially mindful of these risks Anne go to whatever lengths necessary to protect yourself and your children both during the divorce case and in your post-divorce life.
What risks are present in a divorce involving international travel?
If you or your spouse, or both of you, are originally from another country then you may be concerned with your ability and the ability of your spouse to travel internationally with your children. We have all heard of horror stories and movie plots that involve a parent removing their child from the United States and hiding out in a foreign country that does not honor any kind of judicial authority in the United States. Theoretically then, a parent could remove a child from the United States and simply hide out in a foreign country until the other parent loses interest, lose his money, or some combination of the two.
If you are considering filing for divorce from your spouse then you can take steps from the outside of your case to protect your children from a scenario like this. Keep in mind that a family court judge will not go out of their way to insert protections into temporary orders without your asking for them. A judge will not simply understand by osmosis that there need to be protections in place to protect your child from abduction or being taken to another country. Rather, this is an issue that you will need to present right off the bat to a judge in your case.
You should work with your attorney from the time you file your original petition for divorce to make sure that the judge is aware that international abduction is a concern of yours. For instance, a few years ago our office represented a mother whose children were living with her but also splitting time with their father in his home. The father lived and work in Houston but had routes to Saudi Arabia. From the beginning of this case, I can recall this mother sharing with us her concerns over her husband being able to take the kids back to Saudi Arabia where he believed that he could operate independently of the law either in the United States or Saudi Arabia.
One of the major concerns that we shared with her was that she and her husband had no understanding mutually about how to handle situations like this. They had never discussed placing limitations on one another as far as travel was concerned and there was no telling who had the children's passports at any time. While there are no foolproof methods to prevent international abduction or the taking of a child without your permission there are many protections that can go into a place that will better serve than merely worrying about the situation without having a plan in place.
First of all, I would immediately request temporary orders in your original petition for divorce. Temporary orders are orders that you guessed it, are temporary. These orders will go into effect during your divorce and will last up until a final decree of divorce is signed ending your divorce case. During the pendency of your divorce, the temporary orders will give boundaries to define parenting roles for the duration of the case. With these orders in mind, you do not have to be concerned about Visitation or child support. No further negotiation will be necessary as each party's responsibilities to the children will be outlined in this document.
With that said, if you are seriously concerned about the abduction of your child to a foreign country then you will need to specify this in your original petition for divorce and request for temporary orders. A prohibition on international travel for the duration of the divorce is critical. You can request that a judge order your spouse do not travel internationally during the divorce case and should especially not travel with the children. I have even experienced parents agreeing to leave passports with one attorney or the other or even with a court. Without passports no one can travel internationally in the risk of abduction is greatly reduced.
After a divorce, the situation becomes a little trickier. Well, you may have negotiated the most stringent and strong protections against international abduction within your final decree of divorce the orders themselves are only as good as you can enforce. This means that if you are unable to enforce the order that you signed then it is not worth the paper that it is printed on. You are much better off coming up with plans that will allow some degree of travel but will prevent fraudulent or underhanded acts by your ex-spouse.
I like to include travel orders within a final decree of divorce that mandate both sides communicate regarding the expected length of trip, activities, location, and contact information for any expected vacation. Again, none of this is foolproof and none of it offers 100% protection against abduction. However, what it does do is put up some barrier's in place rather than to just have it be incredibly easy for an abduction to occur because no requirements that communication was specified.
Can your spouse or ex-spouse kidnap your child?
Again, I can only imagine how disheartening and fearful a situation it must be to imagine a circumstance in which your child could be kidnapped from you. For the kidnapper to be a relative or parent in many ways is even worse. This is a Supreme betrayal of trust in places you in a position where you are having to defend your child against A person whom you should be able to trust. That in and of itself makes this an extremely heartbreaking topic.
The reality of the situation is that I believe it is more likely that your child would be kidnapped by someone you know than by someone you do not know. While it is true that as a parent you have certain rights and duties about your children, that does not mean that you can kidnap your child and take him or her away from the other parent. Your children are not the property of yours and you do not own them like you would own a pet or a car. Not only this but kidnapping a child means uprooting your child from a support system and their comfort zone. This can leave emotional scars that may last a very long time.
Not only this, but it is against the law for a parent or any other person to take, hide, or keep your child from you. Kidnapping is a very serious crime and can lead directly to prison. If you have a child custody order from a court it is your responsibility to follow it. Weather on temporary orders or final orders, the child custody orders are not mere suggestions for you to consider the following. Rather, these are he takes from a judge that is signed off by him are or her and require your adherence. The purpose of them is to not do what is best for you but is to do what is best for your child.
Within these child custody orders is a visitation in possession schedule. This Visitation and possession schedule will outline to the day which parent your child should be with each day of the year. There are very few court orders out there that are so ambiguous or so flexible as to not provide a basic Visitation or possession schedule for a child. Typically, the parent with whom the child is spending time at that moment Cass rights to make decisions on behalf of the child on an emergency basis. One right at the parent does not hold just because he or she has the child is the right to decide when to remove that child from the country, if at all.
Getting back to what I was speaking about at the beginning of today's blog post I like to include in final decrees of divorce or other child custody orders stringent requirements for providing notice and information when you intend to have your child taken out of the country. Provisions to be included in final decrees of divorce that are helpful also include determinations on which parent should be able to maintain possession of the passports and requirements for international travel.
On the other hand, it is not right for you to get in between yourself and your ex-spouse when it comes to seeing your child. And your concerns over your ex-spouse removing your child from the country needs to be balanced against adhering to any court orders that are in place. Certainly, if you have a well-founded and evidence-based belief that your ex-spouse is going to remove your child from the country without your permission then you should do everything possible to prevent that from happening. However, and end founded concern about international child abduction does not allow you, in and of itself, to prevent your X files from seeing your child.
What can you do if you think your child has been abducted by your ex-spouse?
If you believe your child has been abducted by your ex-spouse then there are steps that you can follow to best ensure that he or she safely returns home to you. The first call you should make is not to your attorney or a court but the police. You should provide the police information about what is happened in allow them to write down a report. Keep in mind that it is illegal to kidnap a child from their parent even if the kidnapper him or herself as a parent.
The next call you should make is to your family law attorney. The attorney will be able to advise you as to how best to proceed from a legal perspective. Filing an emergency request for a hearing in front of a judge is a good starting point. He or she will be able to share with you what can be done to safely have your child returned home to you. A habeas corpus order, or an order demanding that your child be brought to the judge, may be obtained in certain circumstances. This would allow authorities to search for your child and have that child brought before the judge.
Additionally, you may file a petition for physical custody of your child that would allow you to request that a judge issue a warrant that allows Him or her to take possession every child when there are circumstances that involve international child abduction. Finally, I would point you towards a criminal law that involves interfering with your child custody. A person can be charged with interfering with child custody even if he or she is a parent to that child. If your ex spouse were too interfere with your child custody rights against the terms of court order then he or she is in violation of this law. Please note that if your ex spouse were to take your child outside of the United States and in doing so denies you possession or access to the child without your permission then likewise, he or she is in violation of this law. Keep in mind that if you're exposed uses their powers of persuasion to talk your child into leaving your custody for the purposes of international child abduction or simple child casino appearance then he or she is breaking Texas law as well.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about your particular circumstances.