Henry always thought that once he signed his Divorce Agreement that gave him liberal visitation with little Annie, his ex-wife could never keep her from him again. He felt safe in knowing that his lawyer fought hard for him. He had more than what people referred to as “standard” visitation. He was practically sharing most of the time with Annie. He could attend all of her ballet recitals. He could visit her for school lunches.
When his ex-wife remarried, that all changed. She married a guy from Utah, and he was the breadwinner. Since she was no longer getting her alimony, she relied heavily on Walt. Walt soon made it very clear that he was unhappy in the South, and wanted to move back to ol’ Utah. She decided in order to make Walt happy, she’d gladly travel to Utah which meant she was taking Annie. She knew Henry would object to the move, so she didn’t inform him of it. She packed Annie’s pink suitcases, her ballet shoes, and her Barbies.
Henry found out about the move when he showed up Friday evening and noticed the For Sale sign in the front yard. He was certainly devastated. What could he do? Well, here’s five tips for Henry and anyone else going through what he is:
- Get a resourceful lawyer FAST. You need someone who is a full-time family law attorney. Someone with the experience of knowing what to do and how to do it. You don’t have time to wait for someone to learn the ropes. You need someone who can jump on this quickly and get the ball rolling. Also, you need someone who isn’t afraid to get creative. When a parent takes a child without deference to the law, they don’t care if you send threatening letters or call constantly, they will do what they want, when they want it. They will be unlikely to cooperate with you, so you have to force them into cooperating because the law is on your side.
- Get an Order quick. Once someone has left with a child without communication, and refuses to negotiate, your next step is to contact someone with judicial authority to help you make them communicate. You do that by pleading your case ex parte, or in non-fancy words, you make a one sided plead to the Judge. You give them your story, and explain why you can’t contact the other party. Normally, once someone has taken a child without communicating or acting like an adult and taking the proper steps to do so, that shows that they have a trend of absconding with their child to who knows where, and can’t be trusted.
- Enroll that Order. The United States is complicated in that an Order of one state won’t be immediately enforceable in another. There is a process necessary to use another jurisdiction’s police force. This usually takes getting a lawyer in another state to help.
- Help your lawyer help you. Your lawyer may be able to do a lot, but if you sit and wait for them to do everything, it’ll take longer than you want. Also, it’ll get expensive pretty fast. If you can google, Facebook, and make phone calls as a parent, you’ll get twice as much information as simply having your lawyer do it all.
- Consider a Private Investigator. It’s difficult to do a lot from an entirely other state. You need someone who can be your eyes and ears where you can’t be. Unless you decide you should pack up your belongings and Veronica Mars it up in another state, you’ll probably need someone with more resources than you. If your ex isn’t too smart, and they’re posting pictures of their time in another state, or sending you school information, this won’t be necessary. However, if they just disappeared in the middle of the night, and you only have a vague idea of where they could be, then you may need a little extra help.