Parental Kidnapping: When a Family Law Case Becomes a Criminal Case

child holding hand of adult

Divorce and Parental Kidnapping

When two parents are going through a divorce, it is only natural for both of you to make your children’s welfare and well-being your top priorities¬†(How to Tell Your Children About Your Decision to Get a Divorce).¬†Sometimes, however, a parent will take the issue to extremes and will end up kidnapping his or her own children. Such rash actions can not only affect that parent’s ultimate custodial rights but can also cause the parent to face criminal charges. If your divorcing spouse has taken your children or if you have been accused of the same, you need the professional legal guidance of an experienced Central Texas family law attorney.

Kidnapping Laws in Texas

In Texas, kidnapping is a third-degree felony that involves intentionally or knowingly abducting another person. While federal kidnapping laws are more stringent than most state's laws, parents are exempt from federal kidnapping charges related to their own children. If parental rights have been terminated, on the other hand, federal charges can apply.

Interference with Child Custody

Sometimes a parent engages in activity that does not rise to the level of kidnapping but that is instead classified as interfering with the custody of a child who is not yet 18, and this act has two specific components:

  1. The offending parent knows that he or she is violating the court's order or the court's express judgment by taking the children.

  2. The offending parent knows that a child custody case has been filed for the children but removes them from the district or county without the court’s permission anyway.

The Parent’s Intent

The offending parent’s intent factors into the situation (Is It Criminal Intent or an Honest Mistake?). There is a lawful custody intent defense for a parent whose only intention is to assume lawful possession of his or her children. However, if the parent can be shown to intend to terrorize the other parent, that intention disqualifies a lawful custody intent claim. If the offending parent’s intent was to interfere, he or she can be sanctioned by the court with contempt orders and be required to pay for the other parent’s attendant legal fees in the matter.

Your Situation

If your children’s other parent has unlawfully taken your children or if you have been accused of doing the same, you need an experienced and compassionate Central Texas family law attorney. The law associated with parental kidnapping is exceedingly complicated, and your children’s safety and welfare are naturally your primary concern. If you consider the situation to be an emergency, do not hesitate to contact the authorities.

If Parental Kidnapping Plays a Role in Your Divorce, You Need to Contact an Experienced Central Texas Family Law Attorney Immediately

The most charged issue in any divorce involving kids is child custody arrangements, and if parental kidnapping comes into play, things have gotten out of control. You need an experienced, skilled, and dedicated family law attorney on your side. Attorney Brett H. Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Central Texas is here to help. For more information, please contact or call us at (254) 220-4225 today.

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