Until you have a specific custody order in place, either parent can take the child anywhere or keep him for any period of time. There is no such thing as parental kidnapping unless there is a specific custody order in place, and one parent is violating that order.
If you’re worried about your child’s father taking or keeping your child, you should make sure that you get a custody order in place immediately. Once your custody order is established, your child’s father can only spend a certain amount of time with the child. There are often other limits established, too. A custody order could contain provisions that don’t allow your child’s father to have his girlfriend present overnight when the child is in his car, and can also prevent him from taking the child out of the state or the country without properly notifying you and providing an itinerary or other contact information. In addition to Virginia's child custody laws, there are federal laws and international agreements that concern kidnapping that may apply.
Virginia Child Custody Laws & Parental Kidnapping
Your child’s father should not constantly bring your child back to you late. If you find that he is consistently bringing the child back later than your agreement specifies, you can file a show cause and ask the court to take steps to enforce your agreement and require your child’s father to return your child home on time in the future.
If your ex has actually taken your child for more than 48 hours, your ex could be charged with a misdemeanor, have to pay a fine and spend time in jail if the child remained in Virginia during this time. If your ex took your child out of Virginia, he may be charged with a felony and face additional fines and jail time.
Virginia Child Custody Laws & the U.S. Government
There are also federal laws preventing parental kidnapping. For example:
- Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution – Parental Abduction. This law covers a parent who has crossed state lines or illegally fled internationally with the child.
- The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act. This law covers a parent who takes a child younger than 16 years old out of the country without the custodial parent's approval.
If you don’t have a custody order in place and you’re worried that your child’s father will do something irrational, you should take steps immediately to protect your child. If you already have a custody order in place, you should take steps to enforce the order before the situation gets out of hand.