Once a child custody dispute has been settled and the court documents the details of that settlement, any deviation can result in criminal charges for the parent who violates the court order. Most Denver area parents are diligent about following the custody arrangement set forth in their divorce decree; however there are times when the authorities need to get involved to enforce the terms of a custody agreement, as one recent story demonstrates.
It begins with a father who feared he would never see his daughter again after his ex-wife absconded with their 4-year-old daughter and fled to Mexico with her and her teen-age daughter from a previous relationship. The father now plans to seek sole custody of his daughter and is asking a court to terminate his ex-wife's parental rights. The man had primary custody of the girl and the mother received visitation rights with certain conditions surrounding the visitation.
The ordeal began the first week of December when the father dropped his daughter off for a scheduled visitation with her mother. When the mother failed to return the girl as scheduled he tried repeatedly to contact his ex-wife. When he arrived at her home to find there was no one present he contact the police to report his child missing. According to the father, the police declined to file a missing person's report and took no action for several days considering it just another custody dispute.
Eventually police decided to enter the names of the three missing females into a criminal database and the mother was arrested 11 days after absconding with the children in Texas at a border crossing after checking on passports. Border patrol agents entered their names into the computer and got a hit. She was arrested and according to court documents was in possession of drug paraphernalia at the time of her arrest. The two children were placed in protective custody before being returned to their dads.
The mother is now facing charges of misdemeanor child endangerment and interfering with a custody order, which is a felony offense. Child custody disputes can become extremely contentious for some parents, especially if one parent deems the other an unfit parent and a danger to the child. It can be beneficial for parents who want to protect their parental rights to consult with a knowledgeable attorney when custody agreements are violated.
Source: Liberty Tribune, "Father seeks custody of child after mother heads for the border," Angie Anaya Borgedalen, Jan. 24, 2013
Our Colorado law firm handles a wide range of family law issues, including divorce and child custody agreements as well as enforcement issues surrounding those agreements.