If one or both parents have not appeared in an action for custody or modification of custody, the court requires the moving party to provide a certified copy of the minor child’s birth certificate. The birth certificate will be forwarded to the local sheriff’s department to determine if that child is identified on the National Crime Information Center’s Missing Person System.
If the whereabouts of a minor child are unknown and a petition for custody has been filed or an order for custody has been entered, the district attorney shall take all actions necessary to locate the child and to obtain compliance with the order. In addition, the petition to determine custody may be filed by the district attorney.
District Attorney Acts on the Court’s Behalf to Retrieve the Minor Children
If a custody order has been entered, and a child has been taken in violation of that order, the district attorney shall take all actions necessary to locate the child and return the child. by taking these actions, the district attorney shall act on behalf of the court and not either parent.
A Parent May Be Assessed a Fee for the District Attorney’s Service
If the district attorney incurs fees for the expenses in locating a minor child, the court can assess fees against either party for the location of the minor children. The county may take reasonable actions to enforce the judgment.
Depending on the circumstances, one parent may be charged with kidnapping if the parent takes his or her child across state borders in order to avoid visitation with the other parent. Steps can be taken to protect the left behind parent.
Excerpts From the Family Law Code
California Family Code Section 3130
If a petition to determine custody of a child has been filed in a court of competent jurisdiction, or if a temporary order pending determination of custody has been entered in accordance with Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 3060), and the whereabouts of a party in possession of the child are not known, or there is reason to believe that the party may not appear in the proceedings although ordered to appear personally with the child pursuant to Section 3430, the district attorney shall take all actions necessary to locate the party and the child and to procure compliance with the order to appear with the child for purposes of adjudication of custody. The petition to determine custody may be filed by the district attorney.
California Family Code Section 3131
If a custody or visitation order has been entered by a court of competent jurisdiction and the child is taken or detained by another person in violation of the order, the district attorney shall take all actions necessary to locate and return the child and the person who violated the order and to assist in the enforcement of the custody or visitation order or other order of the court by use of an appropriate civil or criminal proceeding.
California Family Code Section 3134
(a) When the district attorney incurs expenses pursuant to this chapter, including expenses incurred in a sister state, payment of the expenses may be advanced by the county subject to reimbursement by the state, and shall be audited by the Controller and paid by the State Treasury according to law.
(b) The court in which the custody proceeding is pending or which has continuing jurisdiction shall, if appropriate, allocate liability for the reimbursement of actual expenses incurred by the district attorney to either or both parties to the proceedings, and that allocation shall constitute a judgment for the state for the funds advanced pursuant to this section. The county shall take reasonable action to enforce that liability and shall transmit all recovered funds to the state.
California Family Code Section 3140
(a) Subject to subdivisions (b) and (c), before granting or modifying a custody order in a case in which one or both parents of the child have not appeared either personally or by counsel, the court shall require the parent, petitioner, or other party appearing in the case to submit a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate to the court. The court or its designee shall forward the certified copy of the birth certificate to the local police or sheriff’s department which shall check with the National Crime Information Center Missing Person System to ascertain whether the child has been reported missing or is the victim of an abduction and shall report the results of the check to the court.
(b) If the custody matter before the court also involves a petition for the dissolution of marriage or the adjudication of paternity rights or duties, this section applies only to a case in which there is no proof of personal service of the petition on the absent parent.
(c) For good cause shown, the court may waive the requirements of this section.