Protecting Children From Abduction By A Parent
Unfortunately, parents in custody disputes often worry that the child’s other parent may try to take the child out of Colorado or out of the U.S. without their permission, intending to deprive the parent of their custody and parenting time rights. This is known as parental abduction. However, Colorado law allows parents and courts to take action in response to the risk of child abduction by a parent or other person with custody or in the event of a abduction.
If you have questions about preventing child abduction in Colorado, contact Halligan LLC for a consultation with an experienced family law attorney who can discuss with you your legal rights and options. Call (720) 608-2361 today.
UCAPA, or the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act, is a uniform statute adopted by some states to help prevent a parent from removing a child from the state of Colorado without the other parent’s consent. Specifically, the law authorizes a court to establish measures to prevent one parent’s abduction of the child if the court finds a credible risk that abduction has or will occur. The law also permits a party, or any entity under state law with authority to seek child custody determinations, to file a petition or motion with the courts for the implementation of child abduction prevention measures.
Under UCAPA, only a court that has jurisdiction to make custody determinations for a child can hear a petition for the enactment of child abduction prevention measures. However, courts can exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction when they find a credible risk of abduction.
Factors Courts Consider in Finding Parental Abduction
Under the UCAPA, factors considered in determining whether there is a “credible risk of abduction” include:
- Whether the alleged abductor has previously abducted or attempted to abduct the child
- Whether the alleged abductor has threatened to abduct the child
- Whether the alleged abductor engaged in activities suggesting they planned to abduct the child, such as terminating their employment, selling or terminating the lease on their residence, closing bank accounts, liquidating assets, applying for passports or visas, or requesting the child’s birth certificate or school or medical records
- Whether the alleged abductor has engaged in domestic violence, stalking, or child abuse or neglect
- Whether the alleged abductor has violated prior child custody orders or arrangements
- Whether the alleged abductor lacks familial, financial, emotional, and/or cultural ties to the state of Colorado or the U.S., or whether they have strong such ties to another state or country
- Whether the alleged abductor is likely to take the child to a country that is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (or the Hague Convention is not in force between that country and the U.S.) or does not otherwise have procedures for the extradition of an abducting parent or for the return of an abducted child
- Whether the alleged abductor is likely to take the child to a country that poses a risk to the child’s physical or emotional well-being due to human rights violations against children
- Whether the alleged abductor is likely to take the child to a country that has laws or practices that would prevent the petitioning parent from contacting the child, restrict the petitioning parent from freely traveling to the country due to the parent’s gender, nationality, marital status, or religion, or restrict the child from leaving the country
Actions Courts Can Take to Respond to Child Abductions
If the court finds that a child faces the risk of parental abduction, it can issue an order imposing various restrictions, such as:
- Travel restrictions that require a parent traveling with the child outside of a geographic area to provide the other parent with the travel itinerary, a list of addresses and phone numbers the child can be reached at, and copies of all travel documents
- Prohibit a parent from taking the child outside the state of Colorado, the U.S., or another geographic area without permission of the other parent or court order
- Prohibit violations of child custody orders or arrangements
- Restrict removal of the child from school or day-care
- Prohibit contact with the child outside of designated times
- Require registration of a UCAPA order in any jurisdiction where a parent may travel with the child
- Order the child’s name be registered with the State Department’s child passport issuance alert program, or require the surrender of the child’s passports, including any passport issued in the name of both the child and a parent, and prohibit future passport applications on behalf of the child
Courts can also impose conditions or restrictions on parenting time arrangements, including limiting parenting time or requiring supervision of parenting time.
Finally, a court can act to prevent an imminent abduction or respond to an alleged abduction by issuing a warrant to take physical custody of the child and directing law enforcement to take reasonable steps to locate and obtain a return of the child.
Steps You Can Take to Prevent Child Abduction
If you suspect that your child’s other parent may be considering taking your child away without your permission and/or in violation of court orders (or already has removed the child from the state of Colorado), the first and most important step involves filing a petition or motion with the court requesting an order for child abduction prevention measures under the UCAPA. Courts will quickly hold emergency hearings to resolve UCAPA petitions/motions and determine whether a credible threat of abduction exists and whether prevention measures are required.
What information do you need to file a petition under UCAPA?
A UCAPA petition/motion must contain, if reasonably ascertainable, the name, birth date, and gender of the child, the usual address and physical address of the child, the identity, usual address, and current physical location of the alleged abductor, disclosure of prior abduction prevention, domestic violence, or domestic abuse actions that have been filed by any individual or entity having custody of the child, and disclosure of any domestic violence, stalking, or child abuse/neglect arrests of any party to the UCAPA proceeding. It must also contain factual allegations that rise to the level of a credible risk of abduction.
Could UCAPA be used by a domestic violence abuser to harass their victim?
The commentary to UCAPA expressly states that the statute “is not meant to prevent a legitimate relocation action filed in accordance with the law…nor to prevent a victim of domestic violence from escaping abuse” and warns that domestic violence abusers may try to use the statute to abuse, harass, or gain leverage over their domestic violence victims. The commentary also warns courts against allowing abusers from using the statute “to gain temporary custody or additional visitation in an uncontested hearing.”
Courts are better positioned under the statute to detect possible abuse of its provisions through a couple of means, including the requirement that any UCAPA petition disclose prior domestic violence arrests and proceedings. Courts are also required to consider “the reasons for the potential abduction, including evidence of domestic violence, stalking, or child abuse or neglect.” Courts must consider whether the alleged abductor acted to “avoid imminent harm to the child” or to themselves. Finally, the statute’s commentary states that placing a child removed pursuant to UCAPA with an alleged domestic violence perpetrator is not permitted.
Can you file a petition under UCAPA if the child has already been abducted?
Yes. If the child has already been abducted, you should contact an attorney ASAP to discuss the options available to you.
Contact an Experienced Child Abduction Attorney
If you fear that your co-parent is planning to or has already abducted your child, you need to take immediate action. Call (720) 608-2361 today to talk with an experienced Colorado child abduction attorney. We will discuss your situation and take immediate action to help remedy the situation using every legal tool at our disposal. Don’t wait. Call now for help.