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What do I do if my former spouse won't return our child?

Imagine that you are a custodial parent who is expecting to pick up your child after a scheduled visit with your former partner. But when you go to retrieve your child, they are not there and neither is the noncustodial parent. If you're like most parents, you might start to panic or worry about whether you'll see your child again. You may even wonder what your next legal steps should be to ensure that this never happens to you.

Situations like this are not uncommon in Maryland and other states. Noncustodial parents have been known from time to time to refuse to return their child to the custodial parent. In these cases, custodial parents are not wrong to feel worried or concerned, but they should know they have options.

So what should you do if your former spouse refuses to return your child? The first step you should take is to demand the return of your child. If the noncustodial parent still refuses or is unresponsive, the custodial parent may take further steps, such as involving the police in cases of kidnapping.

It's very important for both custodial and noncustodial parents to know that violating a child custody agreement is against the law in Maryland and can lead to serious consequences. Also, keeping a child who is under the age of 16 for more than 48 hours past the time dictated in the visitation agreement does constitute a crime. An abducting parent may be charged with a misdemeanor if they remain within the state, and even face felony charges if they cross state lines.

If your former spouse won't return your child, it's important to take action as soon as possible. If you're unsure about how this is done, know that you do have the right to talk to a lawyer. A lawyer skilled in Maryland's child custody laws can effectively explain the process to you and can even help you take legal action if necessary.

Source: The People's Law Library of Maryland, "Child Custody in Maryland," Accessed Jan. 7, 2016

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