What actions are considered parental kidnapping?
Parental kidnapping is hiding, taking, or keeping hold of a child by his or her parent without the consent of the other parent. Although not all states have a specific “parental kidnapping” statute, most state’s general kidnapping laws address the issue in some shape or form.
The charge of parental kidnapping is a severe one, and whether there is a custody order in place has a lot to do with whether a parent’s actions can be considered parental kidnapping.
If Parents Are Married and There Is No Custody Order
If parents are married, and a divorce or child custody suit is not taking place, then parents are free to take their children where they want. Both parents have equal custody rights to their children. For example, if a parent wants to take their children camping for a week and the other parent does not want them to go, it is not parental kidnapping for the first parent to take the children camping.
However, what happens when one parent wants to take the children out of the state against the wishes of the other parent? Now the issue is complicated. In some states, it may not be illegal unless one parent is hiding the children from the other parent by refusing to disclose their location. In other states, it may depend on how long the parent remains out of state with the children. In still other states, the parent could be at risk of being accused of parental kidnapping if they leave the state with the children.
What if the parents are still married and one parent takes their child out of the country without the consent of the other parent? This situation can be considered parental kidnapping.
If parents are still married, and there are no court-ordered custody agreements, charges of parental kidnapping are generally much more difficult to leverage. There would need to be significant proof that one parent is trying to limit the rights of the other by not allowing the parent to see the children or purposely concealing their location.
If Parents Are Not Married and There Is No Custody Order
If parents are not married and there is no custody order, then the mother has sole legal and physical custody until a court order says differently. This situation means a father could be charged with parental kidnapping if he takes a child from his or her mother.
Fathers must establish paternity to have any legal standing in regard to custody and visitation. The simplest way for a father to establish paternity is to make sure he is with the mother at the hospital when the baby is born, and his name is on the birth certificate.
If Parents Are Not Married and There Is a Custody Order
If there is a custody order in place, then the issue of parental kidnapping becomes simpler to prove, although in many cases, parents violating a custody order will be charged with custodial interference rather than parental abduction.
For example, if one parent fails to return the kids after their scheduled visitation or refuses to allow the other parent to pick the children up for their scheduled visitation, they violate a court custody order. They will most likely be charged with custodial interference, not parental kidnapping.
However, if one parent moves out of state and takes the children before the court can enter the custody order, this could be considered parental kidnapping. The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) is a federal law that was enacted to prevent parents from trying to avoid custody hearings in one state by moving to another state with the children. This act invalidates any attempts parents make and mandates that all states give full faith and credit to the custody determination in the home state.
Another instance that could be considered parental kidnapping, if one parent moves with the children, even in-state, and refuses to share their location with the other parent, preventing that parent from their court-ordered custody or visitation rights. This issue occurs in domestic violence cases when one parent will move away with the children to protect them. The parent who leaves with the children can be charged with parental kidnapping.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, it is imperative to contact a lawyer, so you can seek a protective or restraining order against an abusive parent, to protect both you and your children. If a parent is charged with parental kidnapping, it can severely damage the abducting parent’s standing with the court and lead to temporary or permanent revocation of their custody rights.
Child custody is an area of the law that is extremely complex. You must find an experienced lawyer to assist with your case.