Under California law, you can be guilty of kidnapping your own child. Parental kidnapping generally happens in highly contested divorces and combative child custody battles. One parent takes the child physically away from the other parent without permission of the court or the other parent. This is a serious crime in California and is prosecuted under the law.
If you are in the process of getting a divorce or legally separating, it is important that you and the other parent devise a child custody agreement. The agreement should set the basic rules and outline how each parent should follow it. It should help safeguard the child and protect against parental kidnapping.
California law substantially differentiates between the crimes of child abduction, interference with custody, and parental kidnapping.
- Child abduction: California Penal Code Sect. 278 defines child abduction as a situation when anyone without legal consent maliciously takes a child with the purpose of hiding them from their legal guardian. This can be done by a parent, family member or any adult who takes a child without permission.
- Interference with custody: California Penal Code Sect. 278.35 defines interference with custody as a situation where one parent maliciously deprives the other parent of their custodial rights of their child. Under this law, you can be guilty of this crime even if the court has granted you sole custody of your child.
- Kidnapping: California Penal Code Sect. 207-210 defines kidnapping as a situation when a person is moved a substantial distance by use of threat or force. Kidnapping is punishable by up to eight years in prison with a possible fine of up to $10,000.
Parental Kidnapping Defined
In parental kidnapping situations, the individual accused of the crime is generally the non-custodial parent who has moved the child. The punishment for the crime of parental kidnapping is stricter if the child is younger than fourteen years of age. The judge will take several factors into consideration to determine the extent of the kidnapping:
- The age of the child
- How far away the child was taken (including outside of the U.S.)
- What type of care the child received
- If physical threats or harm were made, or
- If any attempts were made to conceal the child’s identity.
How to File Parental Kidnapping Charges
If you believe that the other parent has abducted or kidnapped your child, you need to immediately contact local authorities. Since this act violates the court-ordered child custody agreement, you can ask the police department to enforce the order. If your child is still in the state of California, the police can contact the appropriate authorities to help track your child and return him or her to you.
If you believe the other parent may attempt to kidnap your child, you should take the following steps:
- Keep a detailed list of addresses, telephone numbers and important information about the other parent
- Make a log of the other parent’s actions and words used to indicate a possible parental kidnapping
- Take a picture of your child as often as possible to record their current appearance
Call an Experienced Central Valley Family Law Attorney