Legally reviewed by:
King Law
June 27, 2024

Parental kidnapping occurs when one parent takes their child without the consent of the other parent, violating legal custody agreements or disrupting the other parent’s custodial rights. This act is illegal and can have severe legal consequences for the offending parent.

Federal law, such as the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), establishes national standards for child custody jurisdiction, addresses the issue of forum shopping, and gives jurisdictional preference to the home state of the child.

Parental kidnapping can happen in two main ways:

  1. Violation of a Custody Order: When a court-ordered custody agreement is in place, and one parent takes the child in defiance of this order, it is considered parental kidnapping. This includes not returning the child after a visitation period or taking the child to an undisclosed location without permission.
  2. Without a Custody Order: In cases where no formal custody agreement exists, such as during a separation, parental kidnapping can still occur. If one parent takes the child out of state or hides the child to avoid the jurisdiction of the courts or to prevent the other parent from exercising their parental rights, it is considered parental kidnapping.

Understanding parental kidnapping is crucial as it not only disrupts the child’s stability but also infringes on the legal rights of the other parent. Legal remedies and actions can be pursued to address and resolve such situations, ensuring the child’s safety and upholding custody agreements.

Violation of a Custody Order

If one parent violates a child custody order, they can be charged with contempt and punished by the court. This can occur whenever a parent doesn’t allow the other parent to have the custody or visitation granted in the child custody order.

If your child’s other parent leaves the state with the kids, contact your child custody order immediately. You should enforce your rights under the custody agreement as soon as possible.

Parental Kidnapping Without a Custody Order

If no custody order is in place, such as during a separation, the situation becomes more complicated. Technically, a parent is not violating any court order by leaving the state with the kids. But they could be attempting to avoid the jurisdiction of North Carolina courts.

Your remedy is to seek an emergency custody order. These orders may be granted when there is a substantial risk that the child will be removed from North Carolina for the purpose of evading the jurisdiction of the courts. A temporary emergency custody order can also be issued when there is a substantial risk of the child being removed from the state or facing harm.

These emergency custody orders do not require the typical notice and service requirements. These orders can also be issued when the child is at substantial risk of bodily harm or sexual abuse.

Can a Biological Parent Be Charged With Kidnapping?

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 200,000 children are abducted by a biological parent each year. A parent can be charged with kidnapping even if they have a biological relationship with the child and could face severe penalties as a result. Parental kidnapping laws outline the legal consequences and implications of parental kidnapping, even for biological parents. When a family member abducts a child, it may not always be evident that a kidnapping has occurred. However, a parent may be guilty of kidnapping if one parent violates a court order by taking, fleeing with, or concealing the child from the custodial parent indefinitely.

Reasons a Biological Parent May Kidnap Their Child

The two most common reasons a parent may kidnap their own child are that they were trying to protect the child or hurt the other parent. If the parent wants to protect the child through abduction, they may have reason to believe that the other parent abuses or endangers the child. Even though the parent is acting in the child’s best interests, they are still committing a crime. Parental kidnapping can lead to serious physical or psychological harm to the child, which can have legal and emotional consequences. If you find yourself in this harrowing situation, your best course of action is to seek court protection. If you believe your child is in immediate danger, call 911 to ensure their safety.

In some cases, the abduction is more about the other parent than the child. One parent could be angry at the other for ending the marriage, having an affair, or gaining custody of the child. If revenge is the main factor, one parent could kidnap the child to get back at the other. Some parents may even kidnap their child to force the other parent into an interaction or reconciliation. People who commit a family abduction may have a history of physical abuse, alcohol abuse, or mental illness.

Consequences of Parental Kidnapping in North Carolina

If you are accused of parental kidnapping, you may be found in contempt of court. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the abduction, you could be held in civil contempt, criminal contempt, or both. Civil and criminal contempt of court both carry the punishment of imprisonment and fines.

Family court plays a crucial role in addressing parental kidnapping cases and enforcing custody orders.

If you were the custodial parent prior to the abduction, the judge might grant an emergency custody order, temporarily giving the other parent permanent custody of the child. The judge may grant this if they believe the custody change will provide the child with safety and stability.

If the police were called and the child was reported missing, you could be charged with second-degree kidnapping as long as your child is unharmed. If convicted, you could face up to 63 months in prison and fines of up to $5,000. If your child was harmed in the process, the penalties could increase exponentially.

If you have been accused of parental kidnapping in North Carolina, do not hesitate to contact an experienced and skilled family lawyer. Your lawyer will get to know you and your case personally so they protect your rights and advise you on your legal options moving forward.

Avoid Parental Kidnapping Accusations

Be very careful about leaving the state with your kids without the consent of their other parents. This doesn’t look good to a judge and may open you up to parental kidnapping accusations.

Unmarried parents should secure custody orders through family court to prevent custodial interference and parental kidnapping.

For example, if your spouse is abusive and you leave the state with the kids to get away from them, you may think you are doing the right thing. However, your spouse may obtain emergency custody because you took the kids out of state without their consent. You may want to seek a domestic violence protective order in this type of case.

Consult a family law attorney if your kids were taken out of state without your consent or if you are considering leaving the state with your children.

Legal Defenses Against Parental Kidnapping Laws Charges

Facing parental kidnapping charges is a serious matter, but there are several legal defenses that an accused parent might consider. Understanding these defenses can help protect your rights and provide a clearer path to resolving the situation.

The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act establishes national standards for child custody jurisdiction and provides legal options for parents accused of parental kidnapping.

Legal Defenses

  1. Lack of Criminal Intent: One of the primary defenses against parental kidnapping charges is demonstrating that the accused parent did not have the intent to violate the law or harm the child. For instance, if the parent believed they had the right to take the child or were acting in the child’s best interest without malicious intent, this may serve as a defense.
  2. Consent from the Other Parent: If the accused parent can prove that the other parent had given consent for the child to be taken or relocated, this can be a strong defense. Written or documented consent, such as text messages or emails, can be particularly persuasive in court.
  3. Emergency Situation: If the parent took the child to protect them from immediate danger, such as abuse or neglect by the other parent, this can be a valid defense. In such cases, the parent must provide evidence of the threat and justify that their actions were necessary to safeguard the child’s well-being.
  4. Lack of Knowledge of a Custody Order: If the accused parent was not aware of an existing custody order or believed the order was no longer in effect, this might be used as a defense. This can occur in situations where the custody arrangement was never formally communicated or was misinterpreted.

    The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction establishes national standards for child custody jurisdiction and prevents forum shopping, ensuring that custody orders are respected and enforced consistently across states.
  5. Parental Rights: Demonstrating that the accused parent has legal custodial rights or joint custody can also serve as a defense. If the parent’s actions were in line with their legal rights under a custody agreement, it may counteract the kidnapping charges.

Importance of Legal Representation

Navigating parental kidnapping charges requires a thorough understanding of family law and the specific circumstances of the case. It is crucial for the accused parent to seek the assistance of a qualified family law attorney who can:

  • Assess the details of the case and determine the most appropriate defense strategies.
  • Gather and present evidence supporting the parent’s actions and intentions.
  • Represent the parent in court proceedings and negotiations.

Steps to Take if Accused

  1. Consult an Attorney Immediately: Contact a family law attorney with experience in handling parental kidnapping cases. They can provide expert guidance and representation throughout the legal process.
  2. Gather Evidence: Collect any documentation or evidence that supports your defense, such as communication with the other parent, proof of custodial rights, or evidence of an emergency situation.
  3. Comply with Court Orders: Follow any court directives or temporary custody arrangements to demonstrate cooperation and a willingness to resolve the matter legally.

Facing parental kidnapping charges can be stressful, but with the right legal strategy and representation, you can defend your actions and protect your parental rights.

Contact Our Experienced Family Lawyers Today

Offices is a full-service law firm with an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently, creatively, and compassionately on behalf of our clients each day.  We serve the Upstate of South Carolina and Western North Carolina.  Call 888-748-KING (5464) today for a consultation with one of our dedicated family law attorneys.

Legally reviewed by:
King Law
Carolina Attorneys
June 27, 2024

This blog post has been reviewed and verified by legal experts at King Law. Our team is dedicated to providing premium legal services with compassion, innovation, trust, and advocacy. Serving Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina, we offer flexible meeting options and strive to exceed client expectations with high-quality legal representation and exceptional client relationships.

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