Should I get a custody order to keep him from just taking our kids?
If you and your spouse are going through divorce proceedings and have children together, there will eventually be a court order issued that outlines the permanent custody arrangements for your child. Until that time, there may not be a court order regarding custody of your child in place at all because you are only legally separated. If you have a decent relationship with your child’s father and are able to work out custody arrangements that are acceptable to both of you, you may not be as eager to seek a temporary custody order from the court. There are scenarios in which the parents are able to agree to a stipulation as to a temporary custody arrangement that is presented to and approved by the family law judge assigned to your case. One of the advantages in this scenario is that you could save time and money by working out as many of the details as possible among yourselves. However, it is not always the case that a judge will approve the stipulation between the parties, and your child’s father could engage in behavior that violates the terms you agreed to, at which point you would have to go in front of a judge to argue your case that your child’s father should be constrained by a court order.
You should be aware that without a temporary custody order from the court, there is nothing stopping your child’s father from exercising the same parenting rights that you have in raising your child. This means that you cannot necessarily prevent your child’s father from visiting with the child or taking him or her on trips. Many parents choose to go to the court for a temporary custody order while the divorce proceedings are underway because this provides clarity on how the parents are allowed to raise and visit with their child. Even if you do not anticipate your divorce getting emotional or unwieldy, it can be best for all parties to have a court decide the parameters of the temporary custody arrangements to prevent things from spiraling out of control as the process gets more heated.
While your child’s father may be permitted to have access to your child during a legal separation and without a temporary child custody order in place, there is nothing that allows him to take your child away permanently or deny you from seeing your child. If your child’s father threatens to do this at any point, you should go to the judge right away to get a definitive custody arrangement in place. This is especially true if your child’s father threatens you or could pose a danger to your child in any way. Do not hesitate to consult with a trusted family law attorney before going to court because parties typically involve attorneys in these issues. It can be challenging and confusing to navigate the child custody process without the advice of a lawyer experienced in these matters.
If your children have been staying with you in a home separate from their father since you have been separated, the court will be more likely to allow them to continue living in their current arrangements. Although this could change when the divorce is finalized, judges like to preserve the status quo for children as the process is still being worked out. This is important to keep in mind because you should not simply agree to have your children move into their father’s home without fully considering that this could be used by their father to request that the court finalize this arrangement for your children, at least until a final custody order is issued at the conclusion of the divorce proceedings. Along the same lines, if you actively prevent your children from spending any time with their father, the judge could be persuaded that your time with them needs to be more constrained so that they are able to maintain a relationship with their father.
The instant that you feel like your children could be in danger of being kidnapped by their father or being kept from seeing you against their will, you should get in touch with a family law attorney who will help you seek an order from the judge. You should be prepared for their father to fight you on this issue, especially if he has expressed or hinted at any plans to keep them from you when you ask to see them. At this point, the judge will hold an abbreviated trial on where the children will live and how visitation will work until the divorce is finalized. The judge will hear evidence and testimony from both sides about how they think the arrangements should work and will then determine what he or she believes to be in the best interest of the child.
If you have any concern that your child’s father could immediately take him or her away from you and not allow you access to your child, you should seek an emergency custody order from the court. A seasoned child custody attorney in your state can help you convey to the judge the appropriate grounds for your request so that the issue gets taken care of on an expedited basis. You should not do anything rash, such as removing your child from the country or preventing your child’s father from seeing the children, until the court order has been issued.