While parental kidnapping laws vary from state to state, two main factors determine whether a parent’s act qualifies as parental kidnapping:
- The status of child custody
- A parent’s motives in taking a child away from the other parent
Child custody status
Texas law criminalizes anyone (including a parent) who takes a child knowing that he or she is violating a child custody order. If you are the parent with custody over your child, the child’s other parent cannot do anything that violates the terms of your custody order. Also a parent may not move a child out of the judicial district area if he or she knows that a custody case is currently pending without seeking the permission of the court. Finally, Texas law makes it illegal for non-custodial parents to entice or persuade their children to leave the custodial parent or anyone else acting in that capacity.
For parents who would legitimately like to move, they have to petition the court with jurisdiction over the child custody case. This petition gives the non-custodial parent a chance to oppose the move. While the petition is pending, an act of the non-custodial parent to take the child away to avoid the move would be parental kidnapping.
The motives of a parent taking a child
If no child custody order is in place, the law generally assumes that both parents have equal rights to care for and spend time with their children. Brief trips and vacations with the child – even out of state – can be lawful assuming that the parent taking the child did so in good faith. Parents may not, however, take a child to hide him or her from the other parent or to terrorize the other parent. Many states, including Texas, criminalize this type of intent where one parent maliciously uses the child against the other parent.
Have you been involved in a parental kidnapping case? How were the courts able to help secure the return of your child?
John K. Grubb & Associates, P.C. – Houston divorce lawyers