Divorce can be a complicated thing to settle especially if there are disputes between the ex-couples. This includes spousal support, property and asset distribution, and child custody if they have children. In such cases, it is better that you consult the best divorce lawyers to help you settle your divorce case. You may also have to hire spousal support lawyers or child support lawyers for your other legal needs.

If there are children involved, soon-to-be-ex-couples need to settle child support and custody. It can either be sole physical custody or shared custody. In the former, only one parent has the legal right to take care of the child and all of his/her needs. The latter, on the other hand, can be more complicated.

However, things may get worse if one of the parents takes the child from the other spouse who is declared the child’s legal custodian. If this happens without the legal custodian (either the other spouse or another person assigned by the court), it may be considered “parental kidnapping”.

When is it considered parental kidnapping?

In general, kidnapping is a crime and punishable by law. It refers to the forceful taking or abduction of a person without his or her consent. Kidnapping commonly occurs when a stranger abducts another person and does bad things to the latter, in worst cases. However, kidnapping may also occur among family members and even couples who currently undergo a divorce.

As mentioned, child custody is a major divorce issue that should be settled by the soon-to-be-ex-spouses. The couple may file for sole or shared custody. If one of the parents is granted sole custody of a child, that means the other parent has no legal right to take the child without the other parent’s consent. Otherwise, it will be considered parental kidnapping.

Parental kidnapping may also occur even in shared physical custody. For example, one of the parents refuses or does not want to follow the visitation schedule and does not want to bring the child back to the other parent. In such a case, this may be a violation of the custody order and considered as parental kidnapping. You can also consult legal advice from divorce lawyers regarding the matter.

It may also be considered parental kidnapping if one of the parents (whether granted shared custody or not) holds the child “hostage” in exchange for a ransom. It can create a traumatic impact on the child especially if he or she experiences violence from the offending parent.

What to do in an instance of parental kidnapping

Parental kidnapping is considered a serious crime, more so if there is physical assault or violence involved. An offending parent may be charged with parental kidnapping if:

  • The other parent is not granted custodial rights to the child
  • The scheduled visitation time and date is purposefully not followed
  • The child is forcefully taken without the knowledge of the other parent/custodian
  • The child is below 18 years old
  • The other parent detains or separates the custodian away from the child

In such cases, you should consult child support lawyers on what you can do as a next step. Even if you have shared custody of the child, both parents should still honor whatever is stipulated in the court order. Otherwise, you or the other parent who is not granted child custody may be charged with parental kidnapping.

In the case of parental kidnapping, the custodian should call the authorities and then file criminal charges against the offending parent. If the child is taken out of the country, you should contact the US State Department for further action steps. However, you may have to get a custody order with assistance from family lawyers if you are not married to the child’s father and have no custody order.

A traumatic experience

Of course, this case can be traumatic for the child and even the custodian. The latter may feel responsible for the child’s abduction. In worst cases, the child may be brainwashed into thinking that the other parent doesn’t love him/her or won’t come back anymore.

In some cases, the abductor may use legal defenses to avoid getting charged with parental kidnapping. For example, the parent may say he or she has no malicious intent to take away the child and that there is not enough evidence to prove the claim.

Getting a child custody lawyer

To avoid these worst-case scenarios, it is best to call top rated divorce lawyers in Fairfax VA. Divorce can be a complicated affair, but it is important that everyone abides to the law and prevent such criminal acts that can worsen your family’s situation.