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What qualifies as parental kidnapping?

Parents often disagree strongly about where children should live or whether or not it is good for a child to go on a certain trip. In some cases, one parent may actively prevent the other parent from spending court-ordered time with a child, which is a fairly serious violation that can lead to criminal charges.

Understanding parental kidnapping is not as simple as one might think. Whether some act qualifies as kidnapping may vary depending on the marital status of the parents and whether or not the parents have a court order outlining the time that each parent spends with the child. Needless to say, navigating this particular area is not always simple.

If you have concerns about potential parental kidnapping, it is wise to carefully examine what the law has to say about your circumstances. The small details in a conflict often make a large difference, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to potential parental kidnapping.

Are the parents married?

If the parents of a child are still married, then proving parental kidnapping is not easy. It's perfectly normal for married parents to disagree about where a child should be at any given moment, and the law typically leaves it up to parents to settle conflicts over this between themselves.

However, if one parent has some sort of legal restriction against seeing the child, such as a protective order, then removing the child from the other parent's care and taking them somewhere else may qualify as kidnapping and potentially violate the terms of the protective order.

In broad strokes, if both parents are still married, each parent has an equal right to custody of their child. If one parent prevents the other parent from enjoying custody, this may qualify as a violation of parental rights, but authorities are unlikely to enforce those rights without an existing court order.

Are the parents divorced?

Once parents divorce, courts generally require them to have a parenting and custody plan, which the court approves. If they cannot create an acceptable plan, the court provides one for them.

If one parent takes a child and prevents the other parent from spending court-ordered time with that child, this may qualify as parental kidnapping, depending on the circumstances. Similarly, if one parent uses their custody time to take a child out of state or out of the country without the other parent's knowledge and permission, this may also qualify as parental kidnapping.

Before you press charges for alleged kidnapping or respond to such charges yourself, make sure that you have a strong legal strategy to keep your rights secure while you fight to give the child you love the best life that you can.

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  • Hi Yuliana and Attorney Prince, Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to meet with me. I really appreciated how compassionate you were while listening to my situation, even through my tears. Thank you so much for sharing such valuable information with me. I left feeling very hopeful that when the dust settles, I’ll be ok.
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