What Constitutes Parental Kidnapping?


As a Parent, Can You Kidnap Your Own Child?

Kidnapping is always a serious crime, but if you are accused of crossing state lines in the course of an alleged kidnapping, then it becomes a federal case. (What to do if you have been charged with a federal crime)

A parent is sometimes falsely accused of kidnapping his or her own child, and often this accusation comes from the child’s other parent. If you are facing kidnapping charges, then it is important to better understand what the charge entails – and to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you can to protect your rights.

Definition of "Kidnapping" in Texas

Kidnapping refers to taking a person against his or her will from one place to another – or of holding a person in a specific location against his or her will. The person alleged to have been kidnapped can even be your own child if the action was not within your custodial rights. In the State of Texas, kidnapping is a third-degree felony.

What Is Parental Kidnapping?

In the State of Texas, you can be charged with parental kidnapping if you take your child without the right to lawful control of him or her. The three components of a valid defense against parental kidnapping include:

  • You neither used nor threatened to use deadly force
  • You are the child’s parent
  • Your sole intention was to assume lawful physical control of your child

Most cases of parental kidnapping hinge upon the lawful control component of this charge. Lawful control refers to your legal rights as a parent to have possession of your child. This right is decided by law (or by court order) and is not based upon what is considered fair, just, or right. (Read more about parental kidnapping: Parental Kidnapping: When a Family Law Case Becomes a Family Case)

Federal Distinction

Parents are exempt under federal law from being charged with kidnapping their own children. If, however, a biological parent’s rights have been legally terminated, then he or she is not exempt from federal charges.

Interference with Child Custody

A parent who takes or retains his or her own child (under the age of 18) can be charged with interference with child custody if one of several circumstances applies, including:

  • The parent knows that taking the child violates the court’s express orders regarding custody.
  • The parent knowingly removes the child from a jurisdiction in which a custody suit is pending – in an attempt to thwart that court’s authority.
  • The parent takes the child outside the U.S. in an attempt to deprive the other parent of his or her entitlement to possession.

In situations in which the accused parent was entitled to possession at the time and was fleeing actual or attempted domestic violence, these charges will not apply.

Further, returning the child to the appropriate jurisdiction within three days of the alleged offense can be a defense to prosecution.

Finally, it is also considered an affirmative defense if the accused’s actions in relation to taking the child were predicated on actions beyond his or her control and he or she gave notice – or attempted to give notice – to the other parent.

Facing Kidnapping Charges? You Need an Experienced Attorney!

You can face kidnapping charges even if the child involved is your own. If you are facing kidnapping or interference with child custody charges, attorney Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is committed to applying his decades of experience to bringing your strongest defense. Your rights are important, and our dedicated legal team is on your side.


Contact us through our site or call us at (254) 220-4225 today for more information!

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