All too frequently, I see parents in a situation where the kids have been moved without notice. One parent unilaterally decides to up and move in the middle of the night, without consent, planning, or consultation with the other parent. We call these “midnight moves”.
Unfortunately for the kids, the law treats this situation differently, not based on the needs of the kids, but the nature of the relationship between the parents and the status of any lawsuit between them. In some instances, a parent may be able to rush into court and get an order for their return, the sheriffs can be called out to help, or an Amber Alert issued. In other circumstances, it’s just tough luck for the kids. I call this the “Family Law Doughnut Hole.”
Where Family Law Fails Children
The disparity in protections is simply unfair for the kids. They don’t know – or care – what the status of any lawsuit may be. From their perspective, it doesn’t matter whether this is done in the context of a divorce or an allocation for parental rights. They don’t have any influence on the automatic provisions of an injunction.
Yet we all know that it’s a bad decision to make these midnight moves because of the significant impact they may have on the well-being of the children. There are clearly circumstances where safety is paramount and the kids must be removed from a dangerous situation in the home, but it is all too common that these midnight moves are triggered by emotions between the parties, with no consideration for the kids. These moves rip the kids from their schools, take them away from their friends, and completely disrupt the child’s community.
Don’t Wait to Take Action
If and when these events happen, it is critical to get the advice of an experienced family law attorney. The law in this area changes frequently and each jurisdiction handles emergency situations differently. Time is of the essence – don’t wait to act.