Visitation 101: Don’t Accidentally Kidnap Your Child

Like most states, Virginia law takes child custody matters very seriously. With winter break creeping around the corner, many parents want to spend extended vacation or holiday time with their children. However, even if you and your ex are divorced, you are still co-parenting your child.

During your divorce negotiations, you and spouse negotiated and completed a visitation schedule that is part of your child custody agreement. This visitation schedule safeguards your parental rights and gives you sufficient time to maintain a healthy relationship with your child. Your visitation rights are protected by the law, but this doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to abuse the system. A parent can face severe legal consequences and even forfeit their custody rights if they fail to follow their custody arrangement. If you want to extend your visitation time, you need to negotiate and compromise with your ex so that you don’t end up in jail.

Protecting Your Parental Rights

It’s unfortunate, but some exes use their children as weapons or leverage against their former spouses. There have been cases where a custodial parent verbally agreed to extend the noncustodial parent’s visitation time and then called the cops on their ex. To protect your ongoing visitation rights, it’s important to get everything in writing. In fact, before taking your child on vacation, you should ask your lawyer to review the written visitation agreement just in case.

Protect your visitation rights by taking the following steps:

  • Try to keep all communication electronic
  • Keep copies of emails, texts, etc. (do not record phone calls!)
  • Seek legal representation if you can’t resolve a serious custody issue amicably

If your ex allows you to take your child on an extended vacation, it’s important to acknowledge and address their concerns. You can maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship and even lock-in future vacations by being patient with your ex’s questions and allowing your child to check in every night.

The Consequences of Accidental Kidnapping

The court has the power to deny your visitation rights if you keep your child beyond the limits of the custody agreement. Also, if you fail to return your child after 48 hours, you could be charged with a misdemeanor offense. Not only could you lose your custody rights, you may spend time in prison. If you’re on vacation out-of-state when the cops track you down, you might be charged with a felony, imprisoned for a year, and fined up to $1,000.

You may not have intended to “kidnap” your child, but you may struggle to prove this fact in court if you don’t have proof. Plus, even if the court understand that the situation was accidental, it doesn’t change the fact that you violated the child custody order.

You may be able to request a child custody modification under the following conditions:

  • The original court order is no longer reasonable
  •  One parent needs to relocate
  • The child is being abused
  • You can provide a better and safer living situation for your child
  • Your ex is refusing your visitation time and disobeying the court order

The only exception to this 48-hour rule is if you believe that you child is in danger with the custodial parent. If your child is being abused or neglected by your ex or their current romantic partner, it’s imperative that you seek legal assistance immediately. You may be able to modify the custody order to become the custodial parent and protect your child.

Have Questions or Concerns? Contact a Knowledgeable Attorney Today

If you have questions regarding your legal parental rights, contact The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller. Our experienced legal team can address your concerns and help you protect your visitation rights.

Contact The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller at (757) 517-2942 to schedule a free consultation.