While no child custody case is “routine,” some cases are more controversial than others. Most family court custody matters in San Diego involve disputes as to where the children will live (and with whom) and which parent (or both) will be authorized to make important decisions concerning the children’s health, education and general welfare. These are issues of a civil nature to be decided by a family court judge. Because of the potentially contentious and heated nature of custody battles, there are some cases that wind up in criminal court, for various reasons. Parents hoping to resolve their child custody disputes in an amicable and peaceful manner are encouraged to contact an experienced family law attorney who can help make that happen.
A recent controversial case, making headlines throughout California, concerns parents who allegedly abducted their own children by forcibly taking them from their grandmother’s house. Apparently, the four children, ages seven, five and one-year-old twins, were living with their grandmother who had custody of them. After turning themselves in, the parents pleaded not guilty to felony kidnapping charges. The court set bail at $510,000 for the mother and $570,000 for the father. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for next week. The children were placed in foster care until the authorities decide whether they can be sent back to live with their grandmother. According to reports, the father and mother could receive sentences of 50 and 20 years, respectively, for allegedly kidnapping their own children.
While these issues will be sorted out in the criminal court system, the underlying matter – the welfare of the children – is of great significance. Parental abduction of children has become a big enough problem that the California legislature recently amended the state “Amber Alert” law to explicitly apply to those children who have been abducted by a parent or guardian. In a recent blog post, we reported on the specifics of the law and the rationale behind its implementation.
A parent who is fearful that the other parent may violate the child custody order (and essentially “abduct” the child) can take some precautions. The California Court website lists the following suggestions as prepared by the United States Department of State: 1) be sure to keep a list of the telephone numbers and addresses of the other parent’s friends, relatives, and business associates both here in the U.S. and abroad; 2) maintain a record of important information about the other parent, such as his or her physical description, social security number, passport, driver’s license numbers and bank account; 3) keep a description of the other parent’s vehicle and license plate number; 4) keep a written physical description of your children, including eye and hair color, current weight and height, fingerprints, and any other identifying characteristics; and 5) be sure to take full-face color photographs and/or videos of your children every six months.
Your most recent custody order issued by the court has the full force of the law. It should be kept in a safe place and be readily accessible in the event that you suspect that the other parent may violate the custody arrangement. Child custody issues can be very serious and must be handled in light of the best interests of the child. If you are confronting a child custody matter of any kind, it is important that you contact an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible.
Roy M. Doppelt is an experienced family law attorney and has been representing parents involved in child custody disputes for more than 20 years. Doppelt & Forney serves clients throughout Southern California, including San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista. For a free consultation, contact Doppelt & Forney through our website, or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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