Child Abduction Unit
The Merced County District Attorney's Child Abduction Unit (CAU) exists to enforce child custody and visitation orders and to locate and return children who have been maliciously taken or detained.
It is our goal to help ensure peaceful enforcement of court orders so that the children will enjoy a relationship with both parties. We will help enforce existing orders.
Investigations and Cases
Cases are divided into three categories: Abductions, Concealments, and Visitations. If your child has been abducted, the CAU can begin an investigation to locate the child whether or not there was an order in place at the time of the abduction. Concealment cases, or cases in which you are having a problem enforcing visitation, can only be enforced if there is an existing court order. If you are not satisfied with the present court order, you may take the matter back to mediation and/or court.
In some cases, we will criminally prosecute the other party. At no time is the District Attorney representing either party as an individual. The District Attorney represents the People of the State of California and/or the Superior Court. Since we do not represent you, there is no attorney-client relationship. Therefore, any information you provide the District Attorney’s Office is not confidential and may be subject to disclosure pursuant to court rules or at the discretion of the staff of the District Attorney’s Office. Your address and telephone number will not be released to the other parent without your authorization. The other party’s address will not be released to you without his or her authorization.
Existing Court Orders
If you are being denied your court-ordered custody or visitation rights, it will be your responsibility to do the following:
- Make a report with the appropriate police agency and provide the CAU with the report number.
- Provide a copy of your Court Order to the CAU.
- If you have an attorney, provide the CAU with his or her name, address and phone number.
What Happens Next?
In most cases, the CAU will attempt to resolve the custody and visitation issues without litigation. This is done in a variety of ways, including but not limited to, phone calls, letters and personal contacts. Since each case is unique, our approach will differ according to the demands of your case.
You can bring a civil contempt action for violation of your Court Order. This is done by filing an Order to Show Cause Re: Contempt with the Superior Court Clerk's Office. You will be required to go back to Court and present your case to the Judge. We do not change or obtain custody orders.
When There are No Existing Court Orders
You will need to file three copies of the appropriate papers with the Superior Court Clerk's Office and the forms can be picked up at the Clerk's Office for a fee. When the forms are filled out, you will need to return them to the Clerk's Office for a Judge's signature. There will be a fee for this, unless you have little or no income and are able to obtain a Waiver of Fees from the Judge.
You can do this:
- With an attorney, or
- In Pro Per – This means you act as your own attorney. You can fill out the paperwork yourself or you can use a typing service. The typists are not lawyers and cannot give you legal advice.
Papers to File
If the parents of the child/children have never been married to each other, the following documents should be filed:
- Parental Packet – This packet, which includes a Complaint to Establish Parental Relationship, can be filed by either party in order for the father to be legally acknowledged as such. Child custody and visitation, as well as child support, can be requested through these forms.
If the parents are married, they should obtain:
- Divorce Packet – These documents must be filed to open the case and court hearings. Either party may request a divorce or legal separation.
Additional Documents May be Filed as Well
- Summons – This is the document that lets the other party know that they are being sued for custody, a Restraining Order, etc. This can be served (at a fee) by the Civil Division of the Sheriff's Office, or by someone other than yourself, who is over the age of 18.
- Notice of Motion / Modification – This is what file if you are not satisfied with your present order and would like to change it.
- Order to Show Cause (OSC) – This is the paperwork that gets you into court. With this you can request custody, visitation, injunctive orders (an Order prohibiting the other party from doing something), child support and/or spousal support, and restraining orders. You can also request that certain orders be in effect until you get to court. Two dates will be set:
- Mediation Date
- Hearing date
- Note: If you need orders to be in effect until the hearing date(s), you will also need the Temporary Orders page.
- Request for Entry of Judgment, Clerk's Judgment, Court Judgment, OR Findings and Order After Hearing – Depending on your case, one of these documents should be filed to finalize the orders after they are made.
- Waiver of Fees – The Court will waive filing fees if determined that you cannot afford to pay the filing fees, or if you are receiving AFDC.
What Happens Next?
- The Court will give you a court date to appear. You must appear. You must have the other party served 15 days prior to that court date.
- When you appear for court, the Judge will probably send you to a mediator. The mediator is a person who sits down with both parties and tries to reach an agreement concerning custody and visitation.
- If there has been domestic violence involved, you are entitled to and may request separate mediation.
- When an agreement is reached, both parties will sign the agreement. The Judge will sign it and make it an official Order of the Court.
- If an agreement cannot be reached, the parties will appear before the Judge, who will then listen to both sides and then make the Order.
The Self-Help Center at the Superior Court Building, 2260 N Street, Merced, will assist you in getting the necessary documents completed. Their hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. It is highly suggested that you arrive by 7:30 a.m., because the Self-Help Center takes cases on a first-come, first-serve basis.