Parental Child Abduction

Live at Five’s Board Certified family law attorney, Sonya Coffman, answers questions submitted by Southeast Texas KFDM News viewers. What can you do if a non-custodial parent abducts a child to another country? What is the difference between legal and physical custody? If a former spouse is behind on child support payments, can their visitation be prevented?


some people might think abduction is a strong word to use for a parent taking their own child elsewhere fact is when a parent moves or keeps a child out of state without permission that can be parental abduction and they may be committing a crime under state and perhaps federal law live at five's family attorney sonya coffman joins us now with more and sonya we've been talking while greg was doing weather about abduction and in the states it's one thing but there have been a number of cases including the big case in japan where where the father went over there to try to regain custody of of the kids he already had custody of yes that is it's a heartbreaking case because as you know he had full legal custody in tennessee the mother abducted to the children to japan and he goes to get the kids back and ends up arrested and spent seventeen days in jail so i think the concern is that if a parent has citizenship in another country then the american parent needs to give some thought to what can you do well one very basic thing is to bring this to the court and ask as part of the order of child custody that the american parent hold the passport and if there's a risk of fight that something the court might give strong consideration to and i also visited with judge thorne about that issue this morning and he said that from time to time he notifies homeland security if there's a flight risk involving minor children so you can do that yes make a note that in their database i believe well what couple of other questions that we've had sent to us what's the difference between legal and physical custody of them when we're talking about kids we'll the the case in japan is a good illustration of that the father has legal custody which refers to legal rights to make decisions for the child and physical custody is what the mother in japan has she actually has the child's in her possession but without the legal rights to do so alright if a former spouse is behind on child support payments can i prevent his or her visitation no no and it's very frustrating sometimes to the custodial parent but the law is clear that you cannot withhold visitation if someone is behind on child support so what can you do if they are behind on child support there're two things someone can do they can contact the attorney general's office and they will often help with enforcement uh without charge to the parent or they can contact a private attorney who can file enforcement action in the court system if the other parent is in violation of the court order can it be withheld from their paycheck yes that's how that works alright what if my child doesn't want to go to my ex's even though they need to go over there or they're supposed to go over there that's a situation that we face pretty often and the short answer is if there's a court order saying that the other parent has possession of the child at that time the child needs to go and it's very hard sometimes for a parent to send them but if there's a reason the child doesn't want to go if there safety issues or some psychological issues that need to be addressed then perhaps the parent needs to get to what's going on with the child not wanting to go and then bring that to the court's attention but a motion to modify would be the way to do that not just arbitrarily refusing to obey the court's order and does it matter how old the child is it it does if the older the child is the more likely the court is to listen to that child's input on what they would like and it's often more common with teenagers because they have a social life and things that they want to do and maybe visiting the parents not on the agenda so alright sonya we appreciate it and if you've got a question that you'd like to have sonya answer all you have to do is email us at laf@kfdm dot com fax those questions at eight nine two seven three oh five or just mail them to the address on your screen