Many parents falsely believe child abduction is not a crime since they are the parent of the child. In most states, including California, parental abduction is considered a crime, which may carry significant consequences. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a parent may face misdemeanor charges or possibly a felony charge. If a parent maliciously takes the child when they do not have legal custody, the consequences include $10,000 in fines and up to four years in prison. Unfortunately, a parent without custody abducting a child is an all-too-common occurrence in most states, but it does carry hefty criminal and financial burdens as a result.
If One Parent Interferes with Child Custody Rights
Aside from abducting the child without legal custody, the other type of parental abduction occurs when one parent interferes with the other parent’s child custody rights. This usually looks like withholding visitation between the child and parent or moving the child out of state without following the proper channels. If one parent interferes with the child custody rights by not allowing the other parent to see the child, this is also considered parental abduction and is a recognized crime. The penalties for this crime, while less severe than abduction without custody, are still significant. A parent convicted of this crime may face a significant fine and three years of jail time.
What Happens to Custody Rights Following a Parental Abduction?
If someone committed parental abduction, even if they were able to have the charges dismissed, they may still be in danger of losing their current child custody arrangement. A parent may lose custody of their child or be limited to supervised visits ordered by a judge. It would also make it easier for the non-offending parent to make a case for gaining sole custody. The judge assigned to the case is required to consider the well-being of the child as the top priority and may make changes to a custody agreement if they feel the child is in danger of being abducted again.
How Do I Avoid Committing Parental Abduction?
If parents are not married and have no legal custody order in place, keeping a child from the other parent is still considered interfering with their parental rights. It is crucial to have a recognized custody order sooner rather than later to avoid any abduction issues arising from misunderstanding. If child custody is in place, make sure you abide by the schedule and framework of the order to avoid violating the other parent’s right to see their child.
Some parents will argue that they believed their child was in danger or not being cared for with the other parent as an excuse to violate the custody agreement and withhold the child. If this applies to you, abducting the child by withholding them from the other parent will only make matters worse. A child custody lawyer may be able to help with a better option such as an emergency custody order. Contact our law firm today at (310) 271-7675 for more information on how we can help.