Child abduction appears to be a problem of increasing severity as more and more couples face contentious divorces and even more stressful child custody issues. However, just taking the children in itself is not the only issue that courts are considering in cases today. Aggravating circumstances, party intentions and individual case facts make each of the cases below unique and applicable to parties trying to figure out what factors could potentially be considered in child abductions by family members.
People v. Hyatt
The defendant and his wife divorced and the judge granted custody of the two children to the mother. The father had visitation rights on the first Sunday of every month from 10:00am to 5:00pm. On his first visit, the defendant picked up the children and flew them from California to Kansas where they remained for over two years. According to court documents, the defendant changed his name and enrolled the older child in school under different names as well. Two days prior to leaving California, the defendant had the gas turned off in his apartment.
In this case, the court held that the defendant intended to use his visitation privileges to obtain physical custody of his children in order to take the children from their mother unlawfully. The taking of the father could be considered the same as the taking contemplated by the statute with the intent to detain and conceal the children from the person having lawful charge of the children.
People v. Moore
In this case, the father received permission from the mother of a 12-year-old boy to take him to a ranch for the summer. The mother agreed stating that the boy was required to return home in time for the beginning of school. The defendant instead went to Oregon and then Arizona with the child. The defendant stated that he took the boy back to his mother but was unable to locate her. When she could not be located, he continued to care for the child. However, the father maintains that he did not take the child with the intent to detain or conceal him.
The court held that the evidence supported the Penal Code 278 conviction because the defendant made false statements to the boy and his mother and he took the child to Oregon and Arizona without the consent or knowledge of the mother.
Wilborn v. Superior Court of Humboldt County
In this case, the mother of a four-month-old child was separated from the child’s father. The mother took the child, and they moved into the maternal grandfather’s home. One night when the mother was absent, the child’s father and another woman went to the home, jumped the grandfather and took the child. The woman, child and father then left with the child.
Interestingly enough, the court held that because the father shared lawful custody of the child, he was not liable under California child abduction law. The woman with him was convicted of the offense.
People v. Bormann
In this case, the child’s father took his daughter from a family living in Mexico. This family claimed that they had gotten the child from a “grandma” and the child’s biological parents.
However, the court held that the defendant could not be convicted of child stealing since the family did not have lawful charge of the child.
The facts and cases contained herein are intended as examples only and in no way should be relied upon to provide guidance or examples of what to do in your particular case. If you have questions about the facts of your case, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Any and all advice contained herein is intended only to assist parents and families with abduction of children. Nothing suggested in this article should substitute for common sense, police direction or other professional advice.
About The National Academy for Child Abduction Prevention Associates, LLC:
Founded in 2013 by Roy M. Doppelt, Esq., the National Academy for Child Abduction and Prevention Associates, LLC is an Academy of family law attorneys advocating prevention of child abduction through public education and professional collaboration. We believe that educating the public about kidnapping and its prevention is a paramount duty of attorneys who represent family law clients.