Child ‘kidnapping’ case opens questions on child custody laws

Saturday, April 27th, 2019

Luis Manuel Llanos, who was accused of kidnapping his son Jaysen Manny Lanos, was detained on the island by San Pedro Police Department on Tuesday, April 23rd. According to unofficial reports, the child's mother, who lives in San Jose Succotz, Cayo District allowed the child to go with his father on Wednesday, April 17th, while Llanos was staying with family members in Benque Viejo Del Carmen, Cayo District. He was supposed to return the child home to his mother on Monday, April 22nd but did not comply. On, Tuesday, April 23rd the mother made a report to Benque Viejo Police Department asking for police intervention in locating the child.
Llanos brought his son to San Pedro Town, where he resides and works. Officer in Charge of the Coastal Executive Unit Superintendent Reymundo Reyes told The San Pedro Sun that it is uncertain what will happen to Llanos, as charges will only be pressed if the child’s mother proceeds with her report. “After Llanos was detained, he and the child were taken to Belize City, where the mother was waiting for her son,” said Reyes. He explained that when a common-law union unravels, 100% custody of children automatically goes to the mother, while the father only has visiting rights. This is because, in the eyes of the law, it is considered that the child was born to a single mother. “When the father wants to apply for visiting rights, he has to go court. They, along with the Department of Human Resources will determine the time and dates of visiting or taking the child. This is a signed agreement, so if you violate it, penalties are that you can be charged,” said Superintendent Reyes. However, Reyes stated that in the case of Llanos, there was no such agreement through the court but rather, a verbal agreement with the mother of the child. “Despite it being a verbal agreement, there are still consequences if you fail to take back the child in the time given to you. So, if the mother proceeds with legal action against Llanos, he can be charged; but at the moment, we don’t know what will happen to him,” said Reyes.
The public is reminded that under the Laws of Belize when a marriage or common-law union dissolves, the same benefits as maintenance and a division of properties are equal, but the child custody is not. When married couples separate, the custody of the child is equally shared (50 %) to each parent, which means both have a saying in all decisions involving the child. When in a common-law union breaks, 100% custody automatically goes to the mother, and the father only has visiting rights. However, a father can always fight that decision via the Family Court if he has proof that the mother is a harm to the child.

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