In recent months, I have had the opportunity to represent teenage mothers caught in custody disputes. On two occasions, the father was refusing to return the infants to the mothers. The teenage mothers asked the police for help but the police were unable to help given that there were no court orders. The following information may help you if you find yourself in the same situation.
THE POLICE CAN’T HELP
A teenage mother faced with a father that doesn’t want to return the child, may go to the police for help. When the police refuse to help it is important to understand why. Without a court order, both parents have equal rights to the child. So if there is no court order, the police cannot help you even if the father is refusing to return the child. Basically the police’s hands are tied, because there is no court order to enforce. In the police’s eyes the child is safe if the child is with her father. A police office may be willing to conduct a safety check just to make sure that the child is safe.
Of course, if you fear your child may be in danger of child abuse, neglect, or removal from the State of California, then you should tell the police exactly that. The police will help if your child is in danger.
PURPOSE OF A COURT ORDER
In order to get the police to take action, you need a court order. In these situations, filing an ex parte hearing may get you positive results. An ex parte hearing is for emergency situations where a child is in danger or where a child may be removed from the state of California. Ex parte hearings are typically disliked by the courts, given that you are basically jumping in at the front of the line. Most people have to wait approximately six weeks to get their hearings, but with an ex parte the wait time is eliminated.
Even if your ex parte is denied, the court will likely give you a hearing date sooner rather than later. The ex parte hearing also gives the parties an opportunity to formulate a parenting plan and file it with the court. This means you walk out of the ex parte hearing with an enforceable court order.
A court order should spell out the parenting plan so that a police officer can read it and determine who should have the child on a specific day. The court order is there to provide protection. That way the mother can call the police and say “The Father is supposed to return the children at 7 pm on Sunday and it is now 9 pm and they are still not here.” The court order gives the father protection as well. The father can call the police and say “I am supposed to pick up the children Saturday at 10 am and the mother is refusing to give me the children.”
Even with a court order, you and the father are encouraged to co-parent. If the father is sick and can’t exercise his visitation. You should be willing to work around the court order. I always encourage my clients to be reasonable and co-parent.
DOCUMENT YOUR EFFORTS
If you are stuck in a situation where the father is refusing to return your child, you need to document your efforts to communicate with the father. If you do text messaging, send him text messages and print them out. If you do e-mail, email him every day asking him to allow you to see your child. Also when you got to the police department, ask for a business card for the deputy that helps you. All of these documents can be printed and shown to the judge, documenting that you have attempted to fix the problem without bothering the judge.
If you are a teenage parent and have any questions, please feel free to contact me for a consultation at (626) 446-6442 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am more than willing to work with you on a payment plan.