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Does one spouse have legal right to leave and take the children?

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No. Although we often hear stories about that happening, and some married couples separate without court involvement, married parents have equal parental rights. One has no legal right to take the children away from their other parent. That would require a court order.

The parent that left with the children would need to file a petition in court for divorce, if that is desired, or sole custody. The court will decide where the children should be and issue a temporary custody order until the court can evaluate the situation, hear testimony, review evidence and render a final decision regarding custody, visitation and child support.


The abandoned parent should consult with an attorney or a legal advocate at the family court.
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