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Case of Missing Boys Raises Important Relocation Questions

A father of three young boys missing since Thanksgiving now faces additional charges of kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment in addition to parental kidnapping. John Skelton of Morenci, is accused of hiding his sons from their mother in the midst of a child custody dispute stemming from his divorce. Michigan authorities believe that Skelton, who is mentally ill, may have killed the boys, but he has insisted that they are under the care of “Ms. Taylor,” a part of an organization he cannot describe. Mr. Skelton was recently arraigned in Lenawee County Circuit Court on the new charges, which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted.

Aside from the potential criminal penalties, there are several significant family law issues involved. In Michigan, parental kidnapping is a serious offense. Courts believe that parents should respect each other’s access to a child, and that taking a child from another parent, especially to thwart court-ordered parenting time, is not in the child’s best interests.

Given Michigan’s challenging economic conditions and today’s increasingly mobile society, there are situations where a court will allow a parent to relocate with a child. Courts consider a number of factors in deciding whether to sanction a move. These include whether the move will enhance the child’s quality of life, whether it is possible to preserve the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent, as well as the relocating parent’s motivations for moving with the child. The court will also consider whether the move is borne out of domestic violence.

Family violence is a critical consideration, especially if a personal protection order has been issued. If a parent seeks to move to flee a violent situation, a court will give serious consideration to protecting the children.

If you are contemplating a move out of state, or are having issues with a parent who is threatening to move away from Michigan with your children, it is important to discuss your situation with an experienced family law attorney.