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A parent may file for a custody decree in pro per (by self-representation) or with the help of a family law attorney. This paperwork can be complicated and obtaining legal advice is highly recommended. If a parent cannot afford a lawyer, they may gain assistance for no charge from various local agencies such as Napa County Legal Assistance Agency, or Napa Emergency Women's Shelter (NEWS). Please see the Assistance Numbers page.
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Without a valid custody decree or visitation order, both parents have equal rights and access to their child. This lack of structure can mean confusion and undue stress for the child and the parents. Even when verbal agreements are made between the parents for custody and visitation, outside influences can change these agreements and a parent may find that enforcement of these basic parental rights, without an order, can become very difficult. No matter how well things are going with verbal agreements, it is always a good idea to obtain a court order that outlines specific parameters for custody and visitation.
Contact the Child Abduction Unit as soon as possible. The focus of the Child Abduction Unit is always what is in the best interest of the child. If you have a good faith and reasonable belief that child would suffer immediate emotional or physical harm if left with the other person, you must file a report with the Child Abduction Unit within a reasonable amount of time. This will protect you from criminal prosecution of child abduction while you secure a new court order. You are required to maintain contact with the Child Abduction Unit until a new or modified court order is obtained. Failure to call ( 707-253-4211) or maintain contact with the Child Abduction Unit may be viewed as an attempt to conceal the child illegally and could result in criminal charges being filed against you.
Absolutely not. Although a responsible parent will pay their support regularly, a parent's right to custody and /or visitation does not change, even if child support payments lapse or fall in arrears. A custodial parent cannot withhold visitation solely based on the non-payment of child support. Also, a non-custodial parent cannot refuse to pay child support based on a denial of visitation/ custody by the custodial parent. For more information on child support issues, go to the Family Support Division page.
If you have reason to believe that your children may be abducted by their non-custodial parent, be sure to keep the following documents and information readily available:
This would be Kidnapping rather than Child Abduction. The law enforcement agency of jurisdiction will pursue the criminal investigation and apprehension of the suspect. The CAU will assist that agency in all ways possible, however, it's primary focus is to locate, seize, and return the taken child(ren) to the Custodian. The CAU will take all legal steps necessary to obtain temporary custody of the stolen child(ren), and deliver them as ordered by the Superior Court.
For more information contact the Napa County District Attorney's Office Child Abduction Unit at 707-253-4356. Assistance is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.