Can an unmarried parent legally keep the other parent from the children without having gone to court?
In the absence of a court order to the contrary, it is not illegal for one parent to keep the children from the other parent. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true.
This means that—whether the parents are married or not—if:
- Dad, say, picks up the kids from school and then takes them to his house and does not let Mom see them or pick them up to spend time with her (whether at her house or just out and about), Dad is not doing anything illegal. Even if no one accuses Mom of being a danger to the children, she cannot force Dad to let her see or spend time with the children and if she calls the police for help there is nothing they can do because what Dad is doing is not illegal.
- Mom and Dad break up and Mom moves out with the baby, and Dad calls the police asking them to help him see or spend time with the baby, the police can do nothing because what Mom is doing is not illegal.
As with many things one can do, just because parents can keep their children from the other parent does not mean parent should do such a thing. Keeping children from their other parent, when the parent is not a danger to the children, is absolutely wrong.
Now if there is a decree of divorce or other valid court order that awards shared custody and/or parent-time to a parent and the other parent withholds the children from that parent in violation of that court order, that can be both prosecuted criminally and penalized civilly as contempt of court.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277