During your divorce, you may have endured a heated custody dispute with your ex. Yet, once it finalized, you likely hoped you could co-parent in an effective manner, no matter your feelings toward each other. While you might have approached this arrangement with civility, your ex may be trying to – or succeeding at – keeping your children from you. Their behavior qualifies as parental kidnapping, which has serious consequences in North Carolina.

Understanding parental kidnapping

Parental kidnapping may sound like the nefarious taking of your children. But it also refers to any interference to your scheduled custody or visitation. Your ex may consider these actions benign. Or, they may believe that by keeping or taking your children, they are protecting them. Yet, if they violate your custody order, their actions go against your children’s best interests and put their safety – and your relationship with them – at risk.

If your ex has engaged in parental kidnapping, they may have:

  • Refused to drop off your children with you for your scheduled time with them
  • Arranged alternative activities for your children during your scheduled time with them
  • Concealed your children’s whereabouts from you
  • Convinced your children to go with them during your scheduled time with them
  • Taken – or moved – your children to a different city, state or country

Remedies against parental kidnapping

You have the option of filing a temporary emergency custody order if your ex has kept or taken your children from you. This order will compel them to follow the terms of your custody order and will promise penalties if they fail to abide by them. If your ex continues to violate your agreement, you will want to file a motion of contempt against them. After hearing your case, a judge may rule their actions merit contempt of court charges. These charges could lead to civil or criminal penalties, depending on your ex’s conduct. In either case, they will likely have to pay a fine and may face imprisonment.

As a result of your ex’s actions, you will also want to modify your custody order. Depending on your case, the court may order this modification, or you may need to motion for it yourself. In either case, it will help you take the first steps toward reuniting with your children and reestablishing a relationship with them.