Guidance From A Qualified Family Law Attorney Can Be Key For The Successful Recovery And Return Of A Missing Child In Custodial Interference Cases
Our guest contributor this week is Judianne Cochran a nationally recognized expert/consultant in the following disciplines: sex offender profiling; interstate and international parental abduction (custodial interference); interstate custody and parental alienation. Judi has been a guest contributor to the Ohio Family Law Blog since 2008. She has testified in numerous Courts throughout Ohio and the country. Judi presently resides in Columbus, Ohio.
What do I do if I am a parent victim of parental abduction, legally known as custodial interference? While there are good laws, both federal and state, in place there is a very frustrating growing trend in not being able to get cooperation in enforcing these laws. The first, and most damaging, problem begins with the initial attempts to file a report with the police and get the child entered into the system as “missing”. Without this crucial step, the abducting parent is able to run further and hide deeper before any assistance is provided to the target parent.
Unfortunately, there is a growing trend for police departments to ignore, in effect nullify, the laws and rules governing the process. Parents are being routinely told it is only a civil matter and refusing to enter the child as missing, even though the federal acts prohibit them from NOT entering the child into the NCIC within 24 hours of the initial report. Parents are being turned away in growing numbers by police departments which have unilaterally decided that their “policy” is to now ignore the laws and rules, often because they simply don’t want to be bothered. A department will often go so far as to tell a parent to ignore the recommendations of attorneys, experts, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the State clearing house. In a recent case in Ohio, a parent was told that I myself along with the BCI division of the Attorney General’s office and the National Center were “using different laws than we the police want to use”. I am still curious as to exactly how they arrive at this ridiculous conclusion, but my curiosity doesn’t help a distraught parent.
What DOES help is proactive assistance. The process has not changed, just the need for the parent to immediately seek the assistance. First, a parent must seek the counsel of a qualified family law attorney, who will either be cognizant of the rules and laws governing custodial interference (parental abduction) or know who to request assistance and guidance from. One major word of caution is for a parent to help himself by not depending on random, anecdotal stories from the internet. One must first realize that every state has its own rules, laws and policies. Too often a client will relate to me advice or cases gleaned from an internet search and I find none of the “advice” of any real benefit because it has nothing to do with the jurisdiction they need help with.
A court order is absolutely necessary to have in place for successful recovery and return of a missing child. If there is a custody order in place at the time of abduction, this order must often be modified immediately to give the target parent at least temporary sole custody of the child. This can be done by the mechanism of an emergency ex-parte order. It is important for the attorney to provide supporting memoranda and/or affidavits explaining the reasons and need for this step. The Court must understand that to have the assistance of the entire missing childrens’ network, the Court must do its own part. As often is the case, a parent flees with a child before an order is in place. In these instances, the need is the same for the parent to get the ex-parte order in place.
There is also the need to get a good pick-up order in place. In Ohio, many judges are reluctant to take this step because they think the abductor should be physically served with temporary orders FIRST. If it weren’t such a serious and important step in the process, I could just shake my head and chuckle at the absurdity of this. IF a parent could be served, it would mean she could be easily located so the child isn’t missing, just being detained by the abductor. Understand, too, that a prosecutor will often decline a request for a criminal custodial interference warrant because they also believe this service is necessary. A solid pick-up order or Habeas Corpus for the child’s recovery is very important, especially when the child is believed to be outside the jurisdiction. Too often a Court will include some wording within the body of the custody order, but it unfortunately directs this to a local police agency or sheriff’s office. It must be directed to “law enforcement wherever the child is or is believed to be”, therefore assuring that ANY police agency in the country can affect the child’s recovery. There are effective ways of accomplishing this; most effectively with a separate order.
It is sad that so many laws and procedures have been enacted to deal with assisting parents in recovering their children, only to have the police agencies revert to pre-law status and decide they simply don’t want to bother. In reality, there is very little work involved for the local police in dealing with a parental abduction. They must take the initial report and enter it into the NCIC, which they are required to do by federal law. They then do little work because everything is beyond their jurisdiction. They are simply allowing the rest of the myriad avenues of assistance to occur. Many times a parent will tell me the police suggest they simply hire a private investigator. Okay, to do what exactly? One must first remember that the abductor is HIDING with the child. The child is not legally enrolled in school anywhere, the abductor is not in any traceable position in the system, and since the police refuse to even do an entry, there isn’t even a report or a poster identifying the child anywhere to be found. My response to these parents is to not waste their money on useless advice and instead use it to hire people who can actually help.
The breakdown starts with this new trend for the police to ignore the law and do nothing, and then snowballs into nothing but anguish and frustration on the part of the parent attempting to find his child. There are mechanisms and solutions to this problem, so the parent must be proactive and seek legal assistance from a qualified attorney as soon as possible. If you want to see your child again, you need to put yourself in the legal position to find and recover the child. This is the only actual “self-help” you need to know initially. Help yourself by seeking qualified legal help by finding a good family law attorney, hire whatever effective expert that may be important to assist in the process and get that legal position for yourself. One other statement I often hear is, “I contacted the FBI and they refused to help me”. No, they didn’t refuse. They can’t assist UNLESS the initiating police agency REQUESTS their assistance on an open case. So, if the police department refuses to do its job, then the legal process will see to it that the job gets done.
Seek Appropriate Assistance In Custodial Interference And International Child Abduction Cases
There IS help, and most importantly, there IS hope to find and recover your missing child. It isn’t as complicated or difficult as you may think it appears to be. You just need to seek the appropriate assistance. The police behavior appears to have put up a brick wall, but that wall can be skillfully and effectively knocked down since the actual law is on your side. It is up to you to invoke it. There are also new issues arising in both military related cases and international custody cases, custodial interference, and I promise to address each of those in follow-up articles very shortly.
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