Divorced Mom Charged With Child Abduction 25 Years After Divorce

While a divorce is pending, what are the limitations on out-of-state or international travel with minor children?

Unfortunately for many litigants, the divorce process in Arizona can take several months – often longer than a year – to conclude. During this time there is a Preliminary Injunction in effect which prohibits removing a minor child of the parties form the state.  Additionally either party may seek pendente lite relief in order to set more specific  parameters regarding decision making and parenting time prior to the final divorce order.  If the parties maintain an interstate or international residence, the court may make reasonable accommodations for travel. Leaving the state with a minor child during a pending divorce and/or custody proceeding, however, can result in dire consequences, particularly for the parent alleged to have absconded with the child.

Recently Arizona law enforcement officials recently charged a retired mother with child abduction nearly 25 years after she fled Arizona during a pending divorce. According to the allegations, the mother and her ex-spouse – the child’s father – were in the process of divorcing and the father had been granted legal custody and visitation rights with their 3-year-old child. Inexplicably, the mother disappeared from the state of Arizona and was not heard from during all of the intervening years.

According to authorities, the mother had changed her name, altered her social security number, and changed the child’s identity to make it all but impossible to locate the pair. During the past two and a half decades, the mother was employed at Arizona State University as a professor of environmental planning and design, while the child successfully finished grade school, high school and college – with no one the wiser.

Once the mother was finally discovered, she was arrested and held on a $250,000 bond. If convicted, she could face up to three years behind bars. She could also face liability should the father file a civil lawsuit to compensate for the 25 years he was wrongfully denied a meaningful relationship with his child.

If you are considering a divorce, or would like to discuss the best ways to keep the dissolution of your marriage as drama-free as possible, please contact an experienced and concerned family law attorney at Cohen Family Law. Serving Phoenix, Arizona and surrounding areas, we can be easily contacted at 602-714-8898.