Fox Family Lawyers
Cynthia Moseley Fox
Attorney at Law
7751 Carondelet Avenue,
Suite 700
Clayton, Missouri 63105
(St. Louis)

How I Got My Child Back After He Was Taken To California by My Husband

Last week’s column related how, in 1985, my husband snatched our 2-year old son from the church nursery and flew him across the country to stay with him at his mistress’s apartment in Malibu, California.


With the help of the Clayton  Police, I was quickly able to identify my husband’s flight (let’s call him “X”) and have a Los Angeles private detective named Mark McClaine waiting at LAX for X and my son, Frank, to arrive that Sunday afternoon. Mr. McClaine followed them, unnoticed, to the Malibu apartment, where he waited until I could get to California.


Had my son been taken today, I would have one more resource at my disposal –Missouri’s parental kidnapping law passed in 1988. According to the statute, “a person having a right of custody…commits the crime of parental kidnapping if he removes, takes, detains, conceals or entices away that child…without good cause and with the intent to deprive the custody right of another person…also having a custody right to that child”. A conviction brings a jail term of up to 4 years and/or a fine of up to $5,000.


I believe that X would have been chargeable under this statute, and if the Clayton Police had agreed, a warrant would have been issued and X arrested immediately upon deplaning in California.


But, alas, there was no such law. So the first thing Monday morning, I was at the courthouse filing for divorce while also filing an adult abuse action against X (My husband had spit in my face during a recent argument), believing this would lead the court to issue a temporary order awarding me custody of Frank. When the judge heard that X had taken off to California with our child, she wasted no time giving me my order.


By Monday afternoon, I was on my way to Los Angeles along with my sister and her husband, who was also a lawyer. Along with the custody order, I had papers that the private detective would present X notifying him that he was charged with adult abuse and that I had filed for divorce.


But before that could happen, we had to enlist the cooperation of the California authorities. Upon arriving, we headed straight to the Los Angeles County Court to ask them to enforce my Missouri custody order.


Before acting, though, the Los Angeles court said that I had to file a California writ “in lieu of habeas corpus”, which if granted would provide the Los Angeles police the authority to remove Frank from X’s control, pending a hearing on my Missouri order.


I filed Tuesday morning and by early that evening the police arrived at the Malibu apartment to take back my son, allowing detective McClaine to go home for the first time in 3 days. (I have always wished that I could have been there just to see the look on X’s face when he learned that the jig was up!)


With Frank now in the care of LA’s Family Services, a hearing was held Wednesday morning to determine if I should be given back my child. X was there, claiming that I was a crazy and unfit mother, but the L.A. judge would hear none of it, and quickly ruled that Frank was to be given back to me forthwith. X was provided 15 minutes to say his good-byes.


As I sat in the now empty courtroom waiting, and sleepless since Saturday night, I was overwhelmed by all the help I had received. I had benefited greatly from my familiarity with the system and the assistance of my church, my local community, my family and friends as well as complete strangers, like investigator McClain, who had been sitting in his office Sunday morning hoping for “something more exciting than white collar crime”, when I called. It was all too much and I began to cry.


Just then a door on the other side of the room opened and a small figure appeared. I heard the words that I had been waiting for those three long days: “Mommy!”