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What if parents have no formal child custody agreement?

Arizona parents going through a divorce may be interested in hearing about a man in another state facing criminal charges for alleged custodial interference. Supposedly, the man kept his two-year-old daughter from her mother and took their child to another state, without consent. As the man took his daughter across state lines, the charge is federal custodial interference, which carries a potential sentence of up to five years in prison.

The case stems from a child custody dispute and the failure of the man to return his daughter after a scheduled visit. An arrest warrant was issued and the child returned after the man was taken into custody. Interestingly, no formal custody order or agreement exists between the mother and father. The mother filed for legal custody this past January, but a hearing has not yet occurred. The parties did have a verbal custody agreement. That along with the father's calls stating he would not return the child was apparently enough for the police to act.

As this case illustrates, agreeing to a time share arraignment with children can be a difficult and emotional process. Cases involving financial support orders can add to the complexity. Parents may wish to withhold the support payment if they feel they are not given enough time with the child, or if they share legal custody they may not want to call the other parent regarding significant issues. Some parents may also wish to drop off their children late when finishing a visit, or not at all, much like the man in the story here.

Generally, parents must conform to what the court orders, whether the order is arrived through a trial, a mediation or an agreement. Prior to a final order, parents can get a temporary order. If no order is in place, parents can agree among themselves how to share custody and what support should be given. It's important to recognize that absent an order or agreement, each parent has just as much right to be with the children as the other.

Source: Idaho Mountain Express, "Felony charged in child-custody dispute," April 30, 2014

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