Can I Be Accused of Kidnapping My Own Child in Virginia?
Is it possible to be accused of kidnapping your own child? Yes, it is possible that a parent could be charged with kidnapping his or her own child. There is a common misconception that kidnapping is “taking” someone else’s child. If a parent withholds his or her child in violation of a custody or visitation order, or if there is no order at all and a parent goes into hiding with the child, that parent could be guilty of a crime under Virginia law. If, in either of these instances, the parent transports the child across state lines or out of the country, the parent could also be violating federal kidnapping laws.
If you are concerned that the other parent has kidnapped your child, let the attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy to help you get your child back. Call now and schedule an initial consultation.
Custody and Kidnapping
When parents spilt up, questions and concerns about who has the right to take the children are common and the answers can be complicated depending on the facts of each particular case. It is important to consult with an experienced custody attorney to understand your rights.
If there is no custody or visitation order in place, both parents usually have equal rights to the children. There are some limitations, however, under state and federal kidnapping laws. If there is a custody and/or visitation order, and a parent takes or keeps the child in violation of that order, that parent could be guilty of a crime as well as in contempt of court for violating the order.
Virginia Code § 18.2-47 says that anyone who takes someone else by force, deception, or intimidation, and has no legal excuse or justification, and takes, detains, transports, etc. another person with the intent to deprive the person of their personal liberties or to conceal them from a person, institution, or authority, is guilty of abduction. Abduction and kidnapping are used interchangeably. If the person who takes the child is the child’s parent, and it is a violation of a custody or visitation order, the parent could be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor under Virginia law. If the child is removed from Virginia, the parent could be guilty of a Class 6 felony. Both carry a fine of $2,500, but where they differ is the potential jail time. With a Class 1 misdemeanor, it’s up to a year in jail, while a Class 6 felony is anywhere from one to five years.
Federal law may apply where the kidnapping occurs across state lines. Congress enacted the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act in an effort to reduce interstate child abductions by parents by requiring each state to enforce valid custody and visitation orders from other states generally. The Federal Parent Locator Service is a service provided through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help locate a parent who has taken a child across state lines in violation of a court order. If a parent takes a child out of the United States in violation of a court order, that parent may be guilty of international parental kidnapping under 18 U.S.C, §1204 and subject to fines and up to 3 years imprisonment.
Contact a Virginia Family Law Attorney
If you and your child’s parent have separated and you do not have a custody and visitation order in place, or if you are concerned that your child’s other parent has or is going to take off with your child, you need to consult with an experienced Virginia family law attorney. Call Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy today for an initial consult to provide you with the advice and peace of mind you need to guide you through this process.