If you are a divorced parent, one of your concerns may be that your former spouse would prevent you from spending time with your child, despite custody or visitation orders. You may have heard of cases where a non-custodial parent refuses to return the child after visitation, or a custodial parent moves to a different location in an attempt to take the child away.
Would these constitute parental kidnapping or abduction in Colorado? Let’s take a look at applicable Colorado laws, and some example scenarios.
Laws Against Parental Kidnapping
A host of laws exist at the international, federal, and state levels addressing child abduction. Two important federal laws are the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). They establish the jurisdiction of the child’s “home state” when it comes to child custody, so that there are no conflicts between state rules if a child is unlawfully taken to another state.
Most US states, but not all, have signed the UCCJEA, and among them is Colorado. This means that if your child lives in Colorado but your ex-spouse secretly took him or her across state borders – let’s say, to Arizona – the child custody order and laws in Colorado would apply to the case.
However, there are cases where the home state jurisdiction is superseded. For example, an “emergency jurisdiction” may apply if your child’s safety is at risk. This type of jurisdiction allows another state to step in to protect your child, instead of waiting for Colorado law enforcement to come in.
Apart from these federal laws, Colorado has a state law declaring that custody order violations are a felony. Specifically, Section 18-3-304 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) prohibits anyone, including a parent, from taking a child away from custody care, or enticing a child to leave their custodial parent.
In Colorado legal parlance, parental kidnapping is also called custodial interference.
Some Common Examples Of Parental Kidnapping Or Custodial Interference
A common practice you might note is ‘forum shopping’, where a non-custodial parent attempts to move to a different state in hopes of getting a custody decision that’s more favorable to them. The federal laws discussed above (PKPA and UCCJEA) have greatly minimized the potential of child custody forum shopping.
Some scenarios in child custody and visitation may present a conflict, but not on the level of parental kidnapping. For instance, an unforeseen change in work schedule may prevent a non-custodial parent from promptly returning the child after visitation. Such issues may be one-time occurrences that can be resolved easily just between the parents.
But if you notice major or repeated violations to the custody order, you should consult a lawyer right away. Some examples are:
- Your ex-spouse refuses to turn over your child on the scheduled time.
- Your ex-spouse travels with your child outside of state without your knowledge or permission.
- Your child is convinced that the custody order or visitation schedule must be changed, as influenced by your ex-spouse.
- Your ex-spouse finds ways to cut your parenting time short (if you are the non-custodial parent).
- Your ex-spouse moves to a different address or refuses to communicate with you when it is time to turn over the child.
These could potentially constitute a custodial interference or parental kidnapping case.
If you are unsure about your own situation, or if you believe that it has become extremely complicated, talk to us at Goldman Law. We are highly experienced in Colorado Family Law cases, and we’re ready to help get your questions answered.