As a parent, one of the most terrifying feelings is that of not knowing where your child is. If your child is missing and you know that your ex-spouse has taken them, you may be feeling worried, anxious, angry, and unsure of how to proceed. If your ex took your child outside of their legal right to do so, you have legal recourse. In addition to working with law enforcement, an attorney can help you to understand your rights and amend your child custody arrangement following the incident.
Can Your Ex Legally Take Your Child?
If your ex has taken your child, the first thing to consider is whether your ex has the legal right to do so. This should be spelled out in your parenting plan, which specifies when each parent has physical rights and what those rights entail—including whether or not either parent has the right to travel with the child. Typically in Massachusetts, neither parent, regardless of who has custody at a given time, has the right to remove a shared child from the state without the express written consent of the other parent.
If your ex didn’t have the legal authority to take your child, then you have legal rights and should act quickly.
How to Get Your Child Back
If simply calling your ex and asking them to bring your child back—which should always be your first step—isn’t effective, then you should consider police intervention. If you believe your child is endangered, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1 or the Department of Children & Families immediately. Otherwise, you can ask the court to authorize police involvement.
Consequences for Your Ex
If your ex has violated your custody agreement, there may be consequences. Violating a child custody agreement can result in the offending party being held in contempt of court, which could lead to fines or even jail time. It may also result in the court revoking or limiting the parent’s parental rights and the ability to spend time with the child moving forward.
In the event that the offending parent endangered the child, the penalties are more severe. Child endangerment is a criminal offense in Massachusetts, and occurs when a person wantonly or recklessly creates a substantial risk for a child, or wantonly and recklessly fails to take reasonable steps to avoid a risk. Child endangerment can result in up to 2.5 years of jail time.
Need to Amend Your Child Custody Agreement? Call the Law Office of Heather M. Ward Today
If your spouse has taken your child, you may consider amending your child custody agreement once your child is back home safely. If your spouse violated your court order, you’ll likely have grounds to do this. To help you understand your legal rights and how to approach the process and build a strong case, working with a child custody lawyer in Massachusetts is recommended. At the Law Office of Heather M. Ward, our child custody lawyer has the experience you can trust. Call Attorney Heather Ward today at (617) 903-8955 for a consultation to learn more about amending a child custody arrangement and your rights when your ex takes your child without permission.