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Who Gets Custody in Parental Kidnapping Cases?

When a child goes missing and the parent does not know where they are, this is one of the worst nightmares that a family can experience. In many instances, a child who has been abducted has been taken away by one of their parents. This can leave the other parent feeling as if they have precious little recourse. Parents who have been left behind must turn to the professionals during these moments of panic.

The process of searching for missing and exploited children can be lengthy and costly. In cases where the abducting parent has fled the country, the process is even longer. Without the assistance of a lawyer who is well experienced in these forms of litigation, things can go from bad to worse. They will need to have a strong level of awareness when it comes to the abduction laws in the state of Texas and any additional international treaties.

The following guide will allow parents to learn more about who receives custody in parental kidnapping cases so that they can prepare themselves accordingly. There are a few key questions that must be answered along the way as well:

When Has a Parent Crossed The Line Into Parental Kidnapping?

If a child is hidden, taken, or being held onto without the consent of the other parent, this constitutes parental kidnapping. While there are some states that do not have any laws on the books to govern this crime, Texas has already had laws on the books to address it, even before the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act was passed. In 2003, the Prevent International Parental Child Abduction Act was enacted.

Texas parents who are found guilty of this crime face state felony charges and up to two years of jail time. The amount of time spent in jail could vary if deadly weapons are used, the child is abused during the abduction or they are being held for ransom. If there is already a custody order in place and it is being violated, the parental kidnapping charges could become even more serious.

What If The Parents Are Married and No Custody Order Is In Place?

Let’s say that the parents are married and there is no custody order in place at the moment. If one parent decides to take their child out of town for a week, this is not considered a crime because both parents have custody rights. However, there are instances where one parent may decide to take the child without having the consent of the other. What happens then?

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As expected, these issues tend to be a lot more complicated. If the parent who has taken the child out of town is hiding their location and refusing to offer any meaningful updates to the other parent, this can be problematic. It will depend on how long the parent has been out of state/town and how vehement their refusals are.

In a situation where there is no court-ordered custody agreement, parental kidnapping charges are going to be difficult to file. This is especially true when the parents are already married. The court is going to need to see significant proof that the parent in question is actively looking to limit the rights of the other. Purposeful concealment of location is a common issue in these instances.

What If The Parents Are Unmarried and No Custody Order Is In Place?

In these instances, the mother will retain sole legal and physical custody until a Texas court of law decides to offer up a different ruling. If the father takes the child from the mother, they could find themselves charged with parental kidnapping, as long as they are doing so without the proper permission. When it comes to visitation and custody, the father must establish paternity in order to have any leg to stand out from a legal standpoint. As long as the father is with the mother at the hospital when the child is born and his name is on the birth certificate, he has established paternity.

What About Unmarried Parents With Custody Orders?

The issue becomes easier to solve when a custody order is in place but that does not mean that the parent is totally out of the woods. In these cases, the parent who has violated a custody order will simply be subjected to custodial interference charges instead. Failure to return a child in a timely manner and/or refusal to allow a parent to pick up their child are common reasons for a custodial interference charge.

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Moving out of state can be a bit more troublesome, though. A parent who moves out of state before the court has a chance to amend a current custody order could be charged with parental kidnapping. The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) was put into place to keep parents from being able to move out of state and dodge custody hearings in their home state.

Even if a parent moves in the state, they could be charged with parental kidnapping if they are refusing to reveal their current whereabouts. Child custody laws in these instances tend to be very complex and an experienced lawyer will be needed.

Which Parent Receives Custody of the Child?

In some cases, the incident may be caused by a simple misunderstanding. The sooner a family lawyer is contacted, the easier it becomes to rectify these types of issues. If parental kidnapping is found to have taken place, the parent who is found to have been responsible is going to lose custody. They are also far more likely to experience tweaks in their visitation schedule.

Any parent who is issued these criminal charges should prepare for major changes when it comes to their custody arrangements. Since Texas has laws on the books that specifically cover these cases, there is very little that can be done to avoid this. Parents who are found to have used weapons or force in these instances could face further punishment.

The Importance of Free and Equal Access

To avoid these types of legal issues, both parents must realize the importance of free and equal access. Until limits have been placed by the court, neither parent is restricted in any way. The rights are reserved for biological parents who have legal custody. Otherwise, they could find themselves entrenched in an ongoing court battle.

Knowing who gets custody in parental kidnapping cases is an important aspect of the equation. Any parent who needs help getting their child back will benefit immensely from the assistance of experienced lawyers, whether the crime has taken place within the state of Texas, the continental United States, or internationally. Don’t make the mistake of attempting to handle this type of case without the proper legal assistance.

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