What do you do when you come home and your spouse and child are gone as well as all their belongings? Understandably most people would be emotionally distraught and the first thing they would do is contact the police. Unfortunately many times it’s more effective to make our firm the first call you make. We can file what is called a “pendente lite” motion after attempting to have discussions with the other party. It’s basically a fancy way to say to tell the courts the situation is an emergency. For it to truly be an emergency within the court system, technically it must be heard on the same day the absconding (to run away, especially from the jurisdiction of a court ) took place. If it isn’t then it most likely will be instantly denied. We have heard from countless clients who have tried to navigate filing emergency orders in absconding cases on their own and don’t understand the ins-and-outs of the DC legal system.
While an emergency hearing for a parent absconding with a child would need to be heard by the court on the same day, it’s almost always impossible. That’s why we file a “pendente lite” (or request for expedited hearing) rather than an emergency. At the end of the day it’s all semantics, but this truly underscores why you need an expert family law lawyer when these emergency situations arise. If you can contact us immediately, we will absolutely treat this as an emergency and use the exact language needed and press the right buttons to get your case in front of the judge ASAP.
Absconding Case Example:
Recently we got in front of a judge in the District of Columbia and established parental rights for a child that was taken to the state of Kentucky. After filing the proper motion, the judge heard the case (including a five hour hearing) and now there are plans in place to have the child come back to Washington DC under a court order. While it doesn’t feel like a short period of time, this case was heard in approximately 30-days and we were able to establish parental rights for our client.
Details in a case always matter and will affect how the judge approaches and deals with the case. In this case there was evidence that both parties had purchased weapons and our client had a robbery case previously. So that interjected safety concerns into the case where the opposing party said they were fleeing for safety reasons. As an added layer both parties were sending inappropriate text messages and our client was recorded without knowledge using inappropriate language on a phone call with the opposing party.
*Side Note: Clients when you speak nowadays, assume you are being recorded and be very careful in what you say or send in email and text messages.
In Washington DC there is a “one-party consent” law that allows for a one way recording statue. This means as long as one party consents to the recording of a conversation, then it can be used in the court of law. Additionally now that court hearings are taking place online, you must be extremely careful with what you say during the online hearing, because every word is being recorded and could come back to hurt your case if you are not careful.
Furthermore, there was some issue of paternity in this child custody case, but in Washington DC, when two people are married, children born during a marriage are presumed to be both parties children. You can override a presumption when parties agree to a paternity test. So even if a parent is not technically the biological parent, the judge will still provide some level of custody to that parent because they took part in raising the child.
Parental Kidnapping Technicalities
In cases where the opposing party is trying to relocate a child (or children) and move to another state on an impulse, our firm can also help you successfully stop this from happening. Recently we represented a client in a trial where one party wanted to move across the country with a child. We were able to win this case for our client because the Washington DC court system is never in favor of uprooting children without a carefully laid out plan.
At the end of the day, you cannot take a child from the District of Columbia jurisdiction without consent of the other parent when there is no active record of a finding of domestic violence or a finding of other criminal activity. Legally, there is also a distinction between a case where there is an order in place that says parent “A” needs to have the child returned to parent “B” at a certain time on a certain day. Usually this is the essential part of a physical custody rotation. If a child is not brought back under a court order, under those circumstances, that’s going to be a contempt motion. Again, this is legal language that makes representing yourself in these type of cases problematic for most people.
Unfortunately, custody cases can be ruthless and litigation is not something you should go into unprepared or without thought. At the Law Offices of Paul D. Hunt, we are experts in child custody and have handled many absconding cases like this over the past 30 years. Our firm has a carefully mapped out plan to handle absconded cases as a result of successfully representing clients in these types of cases. For more information contact us to setup a Free Consultation.