You don’t usually think of children as property, but in a strange legal sense, they are. If you and your wife have children, you have a legal right to see, be with, and enjoy the company of your children. That simple legal fact means your wife cannot legally deprive you of them by taking them from you. Your children also have the right to live without fear of being parentally kidnapped, in their family home.
What is Parental Kidnapping?
Virginia, like all American states and DC, abides by 28 U.S. Code § 1738A, which sets out guidelines for universal recognition of child custody determinations.
Additional laws have been around for decades preventing parents from kidnapping their own children to deprive the other parent of those children:
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act
- The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act
- Fugitive Felon Act
- International Parental Kidnapping law
To the manic mother who is determined to spirit your children away, we realize these laws will mean nothing. Yet they do immediately cast your wife as a criminal, guilty of both state and federal crimes, should she take your children.
A mother and wife who is identified in police bulletins and federal databases as a fugitive is unlikely to win much support from a Virginia court for her emotional appeal (“Your honor, I’m a good mother”) or vague justifications (“I’m their mother; they need me”). The law falls squarely on your side.
Filing a report with state and federal law enforcement after the fact is little comfort, though. What can you do to prevent her from following through on a threat to take the children to another state?
Get a Protective Order
Virginia has several ways you as a worried father can get a protective order to keep your wife from taking your children to another state:
- Emergency Protective Order (this expires at the end of the third day following its issuance, or the next day court is in session, whichever is later)
- Preliminary Protective Order (lasts either 15 days or until a full hearing)
- Protective Order (lasts up to two years)
A protective order is not your only recourse, either. If you have separated, or if you have filed for divorce, you can have your attorney request an order outlining custody rights.
Such a pendente lite order can specify:
- An exact farthest distance from their home your wife may take the children
- The precise days or hours you each may have the children
- Neither parent may take the children out of Virginia without consent of the court
- The method of transfer of children from one parent to the other
- Exact means of communication between parents so that nothing is lost by word of mouth
Try an Emotional Appeal
If you can communicate in any way with your wife, appeal first to her protective nature. Ask her to consider how she is making the children and you feel. Would she want that for herself, if the positions were reversed?
Ask her to consider what is best for the children, since Virginia law always puts the best interests of the child above those of the parent.
Stick with the Facts
If you have an emotional, combative or spirited wife, psychologists recommend you keep your cool. Part of her strategy is to upset you, justifying her actions through your reactions.
State simple facts:
- She has no legal right to deprive the children of their family home, since you two are still legally married
- You will file a police report on your “missing” children, naming her, on the same day she takes the children (reports show that waiting even a few days decreases your success in court; if you seem unmotivated to act, the police and district attorney’s office will be also)
- You will file for emergency custody
- Parental kidnapping permanently and badly affects children, according to experts at Psychology Today
- Parental kidnapping leading to “ambiguous loss” destroys entire families, sometimes for multiple generations
You cannot wait to see if your wife will return your children. A 2013 estimate of family abductions puts the number of children taken by a parent at 230,600, or 631 children a day.
Contact a Family Law Attorney
If your children are still with you, and all you are hearing is your wife’s threats, take them seriously. Contact your family law attorney to get a protective order served against your wife.
If you have already separated or filed for divorce, contact your attorney to get a custody order so she knows she cannot legally take your kids.
If she has already taken your children, after you call local law enforcement, call your family law attorney. While no more lonely feeling exists than a parent not knowing where the children are, you are not alone.
With a telephone call to The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184 or by contacting us online, you can reach a Virginia family law attorney experienced with protecting men’s rights in child custody and parenting time dilemmas. If your wife is using your children for emotional blackmail, we can help. If your ex-wife is trying to modify child visitation schedules without a court order, we can help. Please contact our office today.