When & How to Request a Child Custody Bond

Afraid your ex will take your children? Ask for a child custody bond

Judge doing research in chambers
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The courts are well aware of the risks associated with awarding sole physical custody. In rare cases, parents who have lost child custody in court have later refused to return their children or even fled the country—and that's why the concept of the 'child custody bond' was developed. Yet it is not frequently used and shouldn't be introduced in every case. Learn when to request a child custody bond and how to initiate the process with these tips:

What is a Child Custody Bond?

In extreme cases, parents who lose the battle in court have willfully violated the child custody agreement and, in some cases, even fled the country in an attempt to manipulate the system. While these cases may technically be 'infrequent' in light of the millions of cases determined by the courts each year, that's little consolation when you're worried for your children's safety. The child custody bond provides an additional incentive for your ex to stick with the child custody agreement—a hefty financial one.

How Do Child Custody Bonds Work?

The parent required to pay the bond must hand the money, or a portion of collateral determined by the judge, over to the court. Then, in the event that the parent violates the child custody order, he or she forfeits the money. The idea is that the risk of financial loss will motivate the parent to uphold the child custody order.

When to Request a Child Custody Bond

The court may require a child custody bond if the parent in question is a known flight risk. However, you can also request a child custody bond if you have reason to believe your ex will violate the child custody arrangement in some way. In particular, you should pursue a bond if you suspect your children are at risk for parental abduction. A child custody bond creates a financial incentive for your ex not to violate the terms of the custody agreement, and that can help to minimize a flight risk or concerns over the potential for abduction.

Other Reasons to Request a Child Custody Bond

  • Relocation - A non-relocating parent can request a bond for a relocating parent to ensure that the parent follows the custody or divorce decree and doesn't flee with the child.
  • International Trips - Bonds are useful when a parent decides to travel internationally with the children. For example, say your ex takes the kids to visit family in another country. You can ask for a child custody bond to ensure that he or she returns the children as planned (reducing the risk for delays and worries).
  • Short Vacations - You can also request a child custody bond for short vacations. While this is less common, it's an option if you believe your ex may not return from vacation with your children. 

Judge's Role in Handling Child Custody Bonds

The judge will set the child custody bond amount, based on the degree of possibility that the parent will flee with the child.

How to Obtain a Child Custody Bond

If you are considering applying for a child custody bond, start by speaking about the issue with your lawyer. Then reach out to insurance companies in your state who could potentially write such coverage. Insurance companies will typically consider the following factors:

  • Whether travel was intended to be international or domestic
  • Child custody and divorce arrangements between the two parties
  • Financial circumstances surrounding the request 

Child custody bonds are a way for a court and a parent to ensure that child abduction does not occur. While this legal option exists, the courts generally prefer for parents to create an effective parenting plan and stick to it, without the need for a child custody bond. However, parents who have true concerns about the safety of their children should consider asking for a child custody bond as an additional layer of security.

Edited by Jennifer Wolf