Parental kidnapping happens when one parent takes their child without the consent of the other parent. There are two main ways this happens:

  • One parent violates a custody agreement and takes off with the child
  • There is no custody agreement in place, and one parent leaves with the child without consent from the other parent

Your legal options for stopping a parental kidnapping will depend on whether there is a court-ordered custody agreement in place.

Violation of a Custody Order

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

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. 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 an 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. 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, the 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.

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 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 parent. This doesn’t look good to a judge and may open you up to parental kidnapping accusations.

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.

Contact Our Experienced Family Lawyers Today

King Law 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.

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