Kidnapping is often portrayed as something done by shadowy strangers with white vans. In reality, that’s just a tiny subset of the more than 270,000 kidnappings estimated to happen each year. More than 200,000 annual kidnappings are committed by friends and family of the taken children. Of those incidents, 78% of the abductors were actually the child’s non-custodial parent.
That makes non-custodial parental kidnapping by far the most common form of the crime nationwide. It’s not as hard as you’d think to commit it, either. Purposefully ignoring a custody order is all it takes. Below, you’ll learn why parents kidnap their children, why this is taken so seriously, and better ways to win more time with your children.
Yes, You Can Kidnap Your Own Children
If you’re used to being able to take your children on a day trip without problems, the idea that you could kidnap them may seem strange. However, if you don’t have full custody over them anymore, it’s entirely possible.
Oregon takes child custody orders seriously. Unlike many states, Oregon has a specific regulation requiring the court to award sole custody to one parent if either person requests it. While the state does try to offer shared custody when possible, this regulation means that many parents in Oregon do not have custody of their kids at all. Instead, they receive “visitation.”
Visitation is not the same as having legal rights over the kids. The parent with visitation is allowed to either visit their children or have their children visit them. However, when the non-custodial parent is with the kids, they may not do things like leaving the state. They also must return the children to the custodial parent within the time frame dictated in the parenting plan. Purposefully failing to do so is considered parental kidnapping, a criminal act.
Oregon’s Parental Kidnapping Laws and Their Impact on Custody
A decision made in the heat of the moment can significantly impact your parental rights for years to come. Not only does refusing to follow an order not improve your chances of winning full custody, but it can also cause you to lose it if you already have it.
Purposefully refusing to return your children to their custodial parent is considered custodial interference, a felony in Oregon. It’s defined as taking, enticing, or keeping someone from their lawful custodian or in violation of a valid joint custody order with intent to hold the other person permanently or for a protracted period while knowing that you have no legal right to do so.
A charge of custodial interference hurts your case in two ways. First, it shows the court that you are unlikely to take future custody orders in good faith. That makes it unlikely that you will be trusted with unsupervised visitation. Second, if you are convicted of the charge, you have a felony record. Parents with felony records linked to child endangerment are significantly less likely to receive any custody at all and may have custody and visitation revoked entirely. Clearly, refusing to obey an order is not the solution if you want to continue to see your kids.
How to Have Your Custody Order Changed
If you don’t feel like your parenting arrangement is fair, it’s natural to be upset. There are plenty of better solutions than breaking the order, though. If you want to spend more time with your children, you can petition to change the order. This takes time, but it’s the legal and safe way to see your kids more often.
1. Make Sure You Meet the Requirements
Once an order is in place, you need to meet specific requirements to have it revised. You must have waited three years since the last order was implemented, or you or your co-parent must have experienced a “substantial change in circumstance.”
A substantial change includes things like:
- A significant increase or decrease in income, such as gaining or losing a job
- One parent has remarried
- One parent or child has become disabled
- The custodial parent is harming the child
- One parent has moved to a more or less appropriate home
These changes all affect how well each parent can care for the kids. That means they give grounds for changing the custody order for the kids’ best interests.
2. Gather Evidence
If you believe there is a substantial change in circumstance, you need to prove it. The change in income or homes can be easily verified with legal documentation such as employment contracts or lease paperwork. Proving abuse is harder. You’ll need to reach out to Child Protective Services to have your co-parent and your children’s living conditions investigated. However, if your kids are in danger, this is a worthwhile effort.
3. File a Petition with the Courts
The last step is to file a petition with the court with jurisdiction over the custody order to reconsider it. The court with jurisdiction is the one that oversees family law cases in the municipality where your children have lived for the last six months.
You’ll need to choose the proper petition to file and follow the instructions on the paperwork to have it considered. If your petition is approved, the court will schedule a new custody hearing to reconsider the current arrangement and potentially change it. However, there’s no guarantee that the order will be changed.
Reclaim Custody the Right Way
It’s only natural to be upset if you’ve lost custody of your children. Ignoring your order is not the way to react, though. If you’re under an order that you believe is unfair or unsafe for your kids, you should take action to have it changed.
You can take the first steps toward getting orders changed by contacting an experienced child custody lawyer. The right family law attorney will advise you on getting the order changed and guide you through the process. You can take the first step today by reaching out to the team at Regele Law, LLC, to schedule your consultation. Experience the difference it makes to get help from the practice that focuses on your family.