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How can Colorado courts prevent parental abduction of a child?

In a post last week, this blog discussed the case of a Colorado man who successfully fought to get his daughters back after their mother illegally removed them to Argentina. A Colorado parent involved in a custody dispute may wonder what he or she can do to prevent the other parent from illegally removing the child from the state.

Fortunately, remedies are available. Colorado has enacted the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act, which provides courts and law enforcement authorities with a number of tools to prevent interstate and international abduction of children by a parent or someone acting on a parent's behalf.

A parent who fears the other parent intends to remove a child from the state can file a petition with the court which includes a statement of why they believe there is a risk of abduction. The court must then assess whether the threat of abduction is credible. In making this assessment the court can consider known risk factors such as previous attempts or threats to abduct the child; abandonment of a job; liquidation of assets; application for a passport or travel tickets; and requests for school or medical records for the child.

If the court determines the threat is credible it has a number of options. These include entering an order placing travel restrictions on the child or forbidding the other parent from removing the child from the state. The court can also put the child's name on the State Department's Child Passport Issuance Alert Program.

If the court believes the threat of abduction is immediate, it can issue a warrant and take the child into the physical custody of the court. It can also direct law enforcement authorities to take necessary steps to find the child and prevent the abduction.

Interstate and international abduction is a nightmare for a parent. The UCAPA provides a mechanism for a parent to proactively seek the help of courts and law enforcement officers to prevent the nightmare from happening.

Source: Uniform Law Commission, "Child Abduction Prevention Summary," accessed May 25, 2015

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