So, it is a Friday at 5:00 p.m. and you are just getting off of work. This happens to be your weekend and you plan to take the kids camping. You are to pick the children up at 5:30 p.m. You get to your ex’s home and nobody is there! You start to wonder where she went and whether the kids are safe. You call your ex’s mother and she tells you that your ex left the state with the children and didn’t tell her where they were going. You are shocked! You start to question what your next steps should be. Luckily for you, this blog will address the issues you may face along the way.
Do You Have A Custody Order In Place?
Perhaps the most important preliminary question is whether a custody order exists. If a custody order exists, then the easiest option would be to contact anybody who may have information on the whereabouts of your ex and the children. If you are able to locate your ex, then your next step may be to file a motion for contempt with the court, which would order the return of your children provided the papers can be served.
Should your prior efforts fail and you are not able to find out where your ex is located, a more severe measure may need to be taken. Some alternative options include: (1) contacting the local police department and requesting the order be enforced; or (2) locating the state’s Child Abduction Unit. Under N.D.C.C. 12.1-8-05, “Any person who intentionally removes . . . the person’s own child under the age of eighteen years outside this state with the intent to deny another person’s rights in violation of an existing custody decree is guilty of a class C felony.”
What If There Is No Custody Order In Place?
If no custody order is in place, the next question is whether you’ve established paternity. Without paternity, and absent a custody order, you do not have any exercisable parental rights. For questions on how to establish paternity look here.
If paternity has been established, then your next step is to file a summons and complaint with the court. The summons and complaint will need to be served on your ex to make them aware of the proceedings. Service of process is governed by Rule 4 of the North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure. Normally, service may be made through a process server or the local sheriff. The Court may require you to exhaust certain reasonable efforts such as speaking to former employers, searching social media, and searching various public records. If said service is still unsuccessful through traditional means, then service by publication may be made under Rule 4(e)(1)(f) in the county where the action will take place. Once service is achieved you may begin working towards establishing the custody order you require.
If you are in a similar situation and are unsure what steps to take, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are happy to assist you along the way in hopefully securing a safe return of your children and/or establishing a custody order that is right for you.