young girl wearing backpack holding dad's handIt’s an unfortunate fact that many custody disputes end up with a child in a sort of tug-of-war between parents. Children cannot be split in two, and one parent loses. Depending on the relationship between the adults and the feelings that surface, one parent may decide to not return the child after visitation, take the child out of state, or even leave the country. Can a parent be charged with kidnapping their own child? The answer is “yes.”

Most states do not have a specific penal code for parental kidnapping. Instead, the crime is covered under general kidnapping laws. Whether or not a parent is charged with kidnapping will depend on three factors.

1. The legal status of the parent

2. Any court orders dictating custody

3. Intent of the parent

If there is no order in place by the court that dictates the custody arrangement between parents, each has equal access and rights when it comes to the children. If neither party has filed for divorce, either parent can exercise custody. If a parent, for example, decides to take their child out of school for the day and leave on vacation, they are well within their rights to do so. It may frustrate the other parent, but it is legal.

On the other hand, if primary custody is granted to one parent and the other decides to leave with the child without notice or permission, it could be considered kidnapping. This is especially true if the court has made a determination as to how custody is to be handled and the rules that each parent must follow.

In some circumstances, the offending parent may not be charged with kidnapping. Instead, they may be charged with contempt of court or interference of custody. Family law court will ultimately make this determination. Parents who have any questions with regards to the legal custody of their children are urged to contact their attorneys before making any decisions as to how they will exercise their rights.

If you are charged with a crime in Orlando and need assistance, reach out to our team of criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible. We will help you schedule an appointment for a free case evaluation, at which time we will discuss the details of your case and advise you of your options.