I hope you never need this article. Very rarely does it happen, but there are times that one parent goes off the deep end and decides that the Orders of the Court are not meant for them. Children are taken out of school, hidden at relatives’ homes, and secreted from the “custodial” parent. (In this context custodial means the parent who should have that child during that time frame or the parent with the majority contact time.)
The first step is to make sure that the current Order is clear and specific enough to be enforceable. Whether law enforcement will assist when one parent violates a court ordered contact schedule has a lot to do with how clearly written it is. Even with the most clearly written order there are times that law enforcement will not want to get involved. This is when the Court needs to be contacted. Emergency Motions are some of the most overused motions around. Judges hate them because 1) everyone wants to call every bad situation an emergency and domestic cases are nothing but bad situations and 2) because they are being asked to make decisions without letting the other side tell their story. If there is a remedy for the violation (if that parent should not have had this two weeks of summer, but the judge could take other time away from the offender without harm to the child) short of asking the Judge to take the child via police, that is the road to go down. Judges can punish violations with Orders for attorneys fees, extra time for the other parent, moving to supervised or having other parameters or limitations…without having to traumatize a child with a ride in a police car.
If there is no remedy that will truly keep the child safe, in the event of escalating obvious mental health issues and increasingly bold violations..the Court can enter a Pick Up Order. This court order will describe the child and the parent who has them wrongfully, and it will authorize the police to pick the child up. The Order should be drafted to include all the places the child could reasonably be, with the most obvious listed first. The Order may indicate that law enforcement is authorized to enter a home in order to find the child, and that they can do this at any hour. Without this provision, most law enforcement agencies are going to “stake out” a home only. If the person has taken the child to other locations, it may be necessary to hire a PI to attempt to find them and then call in law enforcement to pick up the child..many police agencies are just too overworked to spend days or even hours trying to hunt up parents who have stolen their children.
Ultimately, there are remedies in these situations, but the process can take a while and can be scary in the meantime. It is important to understand that long term, the parents who follow court orders, who show respect to the Judge’s determinations and work within the system will long term get much better results. Once a parent pushes things to the point of requiring this type of action, they have usually lost the Judge’s trust and are working against themselves.