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What to Do if Your "Ex" Fails to Return Your Children on Time
It’s 9:00 PM Sunday and your two girls were due back from their weekend with your "ex" three hours earlier. You’ve called and your former spouse says he/she will bring them back when he/she is "good and ready". You ask when that might be and the reply is "maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe never".
What should you do?
Although child abduction by a parent is rare, I always urge clients to be immediately proactive at the first sign that one parent is intentionally not returning the child at the appointed time. To be sure, delays due to weather, car trouble, or even occasional tardiness are excusable. But, the combination of being several hours late with belligerence and threats is particularly ominous.
It is also against the law in Missouri. A parent that willfully refuses to return a child at the time indicated in a valid court order, without good cause, commits a Class D felony of child abduction punishable by up to four years in prison. So, once your children are unaccountably overdue by more than a few minutes, you should do the following:
If the children are returned by "the new time", this is a happy ending even if it leaves you a bit annoyed and inconvenienced. However, if you cannot reach your former spouse, or if your "ex" can’t provide a credible reason for the delay, and/or is unwilling to commit to returning your children as soon as possible, it’s time for immediate action.
Here’s what you should do:
Typically, involving the police resolves the problem and sends a clear signal to your former spouse that this sort of obstinacy carries with it grave consequences. Occasionally, though, the path to resolution is not as straight or smooth.
At least one spouse must be a resident of Missouri for 90 days before filing for a Missouri divorce. The responding spouse has 20 days to reply to the petition, and at least 30 days must pass between the filing of the petition and the judge's signing of the divorce decree granting the divorce. This 30-day waiting period makes sure couples have a chance to reconcile if possible.
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