It's generally not a good idea to miss multiple court appearances related to child abuse accusations, cross state lines with your children, and hide from authorities. A Virginia woman recently came to national attention for this string of events.
For parents, any allegation that could affect their parental rights can be stressful. It can be difficult to react logically or trust that the system has your or your child's best interests at heart.
Lento's Family Law Team helps parents and guardians throughout New Jersey fight for custody. We know the value of the parent-child relationship and help our clients fight accusations. Call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.
Fled to Avoid Allegations
The Virginia woman, Lauren Cook, missed multiple court dates. Cook then left the state with her three children. Family members claimed she and the children were missing, but her husband disputed this claim. He stated that his wife had full custody and could take the children across state lines. He also said that his wife and children were safe.
Why Cook had a scheduled hearing hasn't been officially released, as juvenile records are confidential. In an interview with a news outlet, Cook stated that she faced allegations of child abuse and an emergency removal order. She and her husband believe the allegations are false, and she ran to avoid having her children removed from her custody.
In October, Cook and her children were removed from the missing persons database. Law enforcement claimed they had sufficient evidence that Cook and her children were safe and not under any duress. It's unknown if Cook still faces charges of child abuse.
Cook states she left the state and went into hiding based on legal advice. Regardless of the truth of this statement, parents should generally avoid crossing state lines or keeping children from the other parent. In New Jersey, such actions could be considered parental kidnapping.
Parental kidnapping is a crime. If convicted of kidnapping, parents face fines and prison time. Even if not convicted, parents may face reduced custody or visitation time.
Courts issue emergency custody orders when they believe a child is at risk or otherwise in danger. In New Jersey, emergency custody orders circumvent the normal custody process because of the need to remove children from a situation or home as soon as possible.
Parents facing emergency custody orders may be understandably stressed or upset. They should avoid acting in ways that would make courts question their fitness to parent or suggest that they are a potential danger to their children.
Defend Your Rights
When allegations threaten a parent's custody and relationship with their child, parents may act from a place of emotion. Parents should rely on the legal system, difficult as it may be. Fair or not, breaking the law may only serve to buttress the claims against you or create a new ground for denying or limiting your custody time.
The best way to combat allegations of child abuse or an emergency custody order is to fight the charges. The accused should work with a lawyer to build a case based on evidence that disproves the claims made against them and their ability as a parent.