If a mother who is sentenced to 10 years in prison leaves her children to be raised by their grandmother, has she a right to demand they live with her when she is released?
Can the mother demand the children return to live with her? Yes. She can make any demands she wants. That doesn’t mean that the grandparents will necessarily accede to those demands.
Does the mother have the right to demand the children return to live with her after her release from prison? Yes, she has “the right” to make such a demand. They are, as a matter of law, her children, not the grandparents’ children, after all. Unless the grandparents petition the court to be made the children’s legal guardians or petition the court to adopt the children (and thus terminate the mother’s parental rights), the mother has the right to the custody and care of her children. And in a situation where the mother has been away from the children, unable to provide them with personal care and attention for a period of 10 years, if the grandparents were to petition for guardianship or adoption, their odds of prevailing are quite high.
Now will the children submissively (let alone willingly) agree to leave the people who have cared for them and to whom they’ve likely formed a strong, loving bond to go live with a woman they might barely know, given that mother’s been out of the picture and literally out of their lives for 10 years? Probably not. So even though the mother has the legal right to custody of the children after being released from prison, if the children refused to leave their grandparents’ home to go live with their mother, there is little the police can do. The grandparents could not be arrested for kidnapping because they are not holding the children against their wills.