Is it Kidnapping When You Take Your Own Child?
Jan. 1, 2022
Parental kidnapping is a popularized term for what Arizona law classifies as custodial interference. In its basic form, custodial interference means that one parent takes, keeps, or withholds a child from the other parent without the legal authority to do so.
For example, imagine a post-divorce custodial arrangement allows the noncustodial parent to spend weekends with their child. One weekend, however, the noncustodial parent decides to take the child out of state for an extended vacation or for a visit with grandparents and then doesn’t return the child at the close of the weekend. This could be considered custodial interference, especially if the custodial parent never agreed to the extended stay.
If you’re the custodial parent and this happens to you, you need to contact an experienced attorney. Custodial interference carries stiff penalties, including jail or prison time, depending on the circumstances.
If you’re the noncustodial parent who wishes to spend extra time with your child, you should consult a family law attorney as well. The attorney can read through the court-approved custodial agreement and assess your options.
The family law attorneys at Faussette & Faussette PLLC possess both the knowledge and experience to provide legal counsel and representation for both custodial and noncustodial parents. My team will help you fully exercise your rights under Arizona law. I proudly serve clients throughout the greater Phoenix area.
Parental Kidnapping/Custodial Interference Under the Law
In Arizona, there are four instances that comprise custodial interference. They are when a person commits any of the following:
Takes, entices or keeps from lawful custody any child, or any person who is incompetent, and who is entrusted by authority of law to the custody of another person or institution.
Before the entry of a court order determining custodial rights, takes, entices or withholds any child from the other parent denying that parent access to any child.
If the person is one of two persons who have joint legal custody of a child, takes, entices or withholds from physical custody the child from the other custodian.
At the expiration of access rights outside this state, intentionally fails or refuses to return or impedes the return of a child to the lawful custodian.
Our example above could fall under the first, third, and/or fourth definitions above. The second definition would apply in a situation when a divorcing couple has not yet established custody in court and one parent keeps the child from the other, “denying that parent access.”
Penalties for Custodial Interference
Depending on the circumstances, child interference can be charged anywhere from a misdemeanor—which could result in six months in jail—up to a Class 3 Felony, with a possible prison term of eight years and nine months. In other words, the legal stakes are high for taking or withholding a child from the custodial parent. If you do get charged with custodial interference, you may also lose your right to custody or parenting time.
If you feel the need to spend extra time with your child, reach out to me first at Faussette & Faussette PLLC so we can discuss your legal options.
Exceptions and Exemptions to the Law
Threats or incidents of domestic violence qualify as an exception, also called an exemption, to the law. For instance, if one parent has a “good faith and reasonable belief” that the child will be in immediate danger, or face possible physical injury, if left with the other parent, that is an exception to the law. Another exemption is if one parent is in the process of seeking an order of protection from the court against the other parent. Taking or withholding a child from the other parent to prevent harm is thus legally justified.
How Faussette & Faussette PLLC Can Help
Custody issues can loom large post-divorce, and the two parents may argue over what the custody order really says. If you’re uncertain, don’t just take matters into your own hands—seek legal advice instead. A charge of custodial interference can result not only in possible incarceration, but also in a loss of custodial or parenting time rights.
Don’t hesitate to contact me at Faussette & Faussette PLLC with your custody issues. Allow a team of family law attorneys to advise you of your rights and help you seek legal remedies. I am proud to serve clients throughout the Valley and its surrounding cities and across the state of Arizona, including Phoenix, Glendale, Peoria, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, and Goodyear.