Parental Kidnapping in Houston, TX
Your children have two parents, and if you and your spouse are divorcing or are divorced, you likely share parental responsibilities between the two of you. The fact is, however, that parents going through divorce sometimes exercise extremely bad judgement and kidnap their own children. Such behavior is likely to affect not only the parent’s ultimate custody arrangements but can also lead to criminal charges. If your children have been kidnapped by their other parent – or if you have been so charged – you need an experienced Houston family law attorney.
Texas Kidnapping Law
- The parent did not threaten to use deadly force in enacting the kidnapping.
- The parent is indeed the children’s parent.
- The parent’s sole intent was to assume the children’s lawful physical control.
Lawful physical control in the third element refers to the parent’s right to assume possession of the children under pertinent state law, which is typically the Texas Family Code. A parent’s belief that assuming possession of his or her children is in their best interest is not reason enough. A parent’s beliefs about what’s best for the children don’t factor in; only the parent’s rights as determined by either law or by a court order pertain.
Federal Kidnapping Laws
- When the parent knows that by taking the children he or she is violating the court’s order disposing of the children’s custody or is violating the court’s express judgement
- When the court hasn’t provided the parent with custody of the children, when the parent knows that a case involving the children’s custody has been filed, and when the parent removes the children from the district (if the court is a district court) or from the county (if the court is a county court) without having the permission of the court and with the intention of depriving the court of authority over the children
There are, however, several prosecutorial defenses that may apply:
- When the person returns the children to the rightful geographic area (either district or county) within three days of committing the offense
- If the person taking the children had a valid order providing for possession of or access to the children
- If the person’s retention of the children was caused by circumstances beyond his or her control and the parent either provided or attempted to provide notice to the other parent (who is also entitled to possession or access to the children)
- If the parent taking the children was entitled to possession or access to the children and was fleeing family violence (actual or attempted) against either the children or himself or herself
It is important to note that interfering with child custody is a state jail felony that can lead to serving between 180 days and two years in state jail and to fines of up to $10,000. A parent’s mere belief that he or she has the right to take his or her children does not make it so. The difference between kidnapping and interfering with child custody is summed up as the difference between kidnapping and what we might call snatching.
Lawful Custody Intent
While the lawful custody defense is commonly employed to defeat parental kidnapping charges, interference with child custody charges may still apply. If the family law court determines that the parent intended not to kidnap the children but to instead interfere with their custody, the court can sanction the parent with contempt orders and require him or her to pay the legal fees incurred by the parent who was attempting to have the children returned.
Parental Kidnapping Law Is Complicated
If You Are Dealing with a Parental Kidnapping, You Need an Experienced Houston Family Law Attorney
Contact Today for Your Free Case Evaluation. 713-781-7775
If you find yourself on the verge of divorce, call The Rudisel Law Firm, P.C. We have the knowledge, trial experience and professional staff necessary to protect you, your family and your property.