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The Legal Implications of Parental Kidnapping

What Is Parental Kidnapping?

Parental kidnapping refers to situations where one parent takes and retains custody of their child in contravention to the custodial rights of the other parent. For example, if a mother is awarded primary custody of a child while the father can only exercise custody on weekends and is required to exchange custody every Sunday evening at 6:00 PM, the father has committed parental kidnapping if he refuses to return his child to the mother at the agreed-upon time and place.

Of course, small violations regarding custody exchanges do not rise to the level of parental kidnapping. If, for instance, the father in our above example arrived to exchange custody at 6:15 PM on Sunday, a court would not consider it to be parental kidnapping, especially if there was a good reason for the father to be late.

The most serious occurrences of parental kidnapping involve the noncompliant parent’s intent to deprive the other parent of their custody rights. Thus, if instead of exchange custody at 6:00 PM on Sunday, the father took the child to another state with no intention of returning the child, then the father has committed parental kidnapping.

What Are the Legal Consequences of Parental Kidnapping?

Most states have enacted the provisions of the Uniform Child Custody Enforcement and Jurisdiction Act (UCCJEA), which provides uniform standards and procedures for the enforcement of custody orders issued by another state’s court.

Family law is primarily the responsibility of state law and state courts, the jurisdiction of which did not extend state borders. As a result, if a parent took a child across state lines, they could evade enforcement of a custody order because the power to enforce the order could not reach the evasive parent in another state.

The UCCJEA eliminated the jurisdictional problems that arose regarding the interstate enforcement of custody orders. This was accomplished by having different states recognize the validity and effect of an out-of-state court’s custody order for purposes of enforcing that order. As a result, a parent who flees with their child from California to Nevada cannot avoid enforcement of a California court’s custody order. Under the UCCJEA, Nevada courts could enforce a child custody order issued by a California court as if initially rendered by a Nevada court.

Furthermore, states that have enacted the UCCJEA can enforce custody orders rendered by the court of another country in cases of international parental kidnapping. The United States is a signatory to The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction, also known as the “Hague Abduction Convention.” Like the UCCJEA, the Hague Abduction Convention provides uniform procedures and standards for the recognition and enforcement of foreign child custody orders.

Moreover, the federal International Parental Kidnapping Act makes parental kidnapping a federal crime if the child was removed from the United States with the intent of obstructing the other parent’s lawful exercise of parental rights. A person successfully convicted of international parental kidnapping faces significant fines and up to three years in federal prison.

Have Child Custody Questions? Consult Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich

Child custody is one of the most emotionally intense legal issues in the practice of family law. To make sure your custody rights as a parent are protected, you should seek the legal advice of an experienced family law attorney from Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich. Our team of dedicated attorneys has years of experience dealing with issues concerning California family law, including matters of interstate child custody and parental kidnapping.

Please call Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich at (951) 506-6654 or contact our office online to schedule an initial case evaluation today.

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