Child custody dispute ends with hefty restitution order

On behalf of Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC posted in Child Custody on Thursday, February 7, 2013.

Separation is often tough for Virginia families, and the situation can quickly become more complicated when children are involved and the parents want to move elsewhere. While out-of-state moves frequently create child custody and visitation disputes a parent who wants to move back to his or her home country will likely encounter even greater difficulties. In these situations, it is best to focus on compromise and negotiation instead of taking unwise actions that can have serious legal consequences.

A man who is a dual citizen of Canada and Iran has recently been ordered to pay over $119,000 to his ex-wife after kidnapping his daughter and taking her to Iran. The mother had settled in Virginia with the girl after the couple separated and the two parents maintained a regular visitation schedule. In 2009, however, the father failed to return with the daughter from a six-week vacation to Iran. He was eventually arrested and the girl was returned to her mother, but the father faced charges of violating the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act as a result of his actions. In additional to the criminal penalties, he was ordered to pay significant restitution to the mother, who had given up her lucrative job and spent tens of thousands of dollars in an effort to find and recover her daughter.

Even when parents have the best intentions, emotions may play a greater role in their decision-making than logic or good sense. In situations like this, even a parent with custody rights can be charged with kidnapping, especially if the child is removed from the country. Although parents often worry about being excluded from their children's lives during and after a divorce, the law provides protection for parents, whether married or unmarried. Courts often focus on the best interests of the child and make an effort to have both parents equally involved in the child's life. Relocation presents unique hurdles but an experienced family law attorney can help parents explain the need for relocation and the benefits to the child or prevent a relocation that will negatively affect the child.

Although it may take some time to initiate court proceedings to approve or prevent relocation or modification of a custody arrangement, operating within the boundaries of the law and the established systems will usually best serve the children and the parents and prevent harmful consequences like criminal charges, jail time, loss of custody, and other penalties.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Dad Owes Ex $119K After Kidnapping Their Child," Ryan Abbott, Jan. 29, 2013

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