Child custody issues can often become the most contentious and hard fought battles in any custody or divorce case. Unfortunately, when the dust settles and the trial is over, one or both of the parents may be highly dissatisfied with the outcome and believe the judge may have made the complete wrong decision. In most cases, this will be handled through an appeal or a later modification, even though there will often be animosity lingering between the parents in the meantime. Unfortunately, in some cases, one parent may make the decision to take matters into his or her own hands and disobey the custody order. In some cases, this refusal to abide by a custody order can rise to the level of parental kidnapping.
Minnesota Statutes Section 609.29 addresses the criminal act of intentionally depriving another of custodial or parental rights. The law provides that if a person conceals or retains a minor child “where the action manifests an intent to substantially deprive” a parent of parental rights or parenting time, that may be a crime. This is true not only where there is a court order providing for exact exchange times, but also where the action for visitation or custody has started but a final order has not been issued. There are defenses to this crime, including that the accused believed that their action was necessary to protect the child from physical or sexual assault or substantial emotional harm. Another defense is that the accused had permission from the other parent to take or keep the child. Custodial interference is punishable by up to two years, unless there were certain exacerbating circumstances, such as the use of a weapon or threats of physical harm.
Even aside from the potential criminal penalties, a parent who has interfered with custody or visitation of the other parent can face serious repercussions in a custody action. A court gives great weight to a parent’s demonstrated ability and desire to foster a bond between the child and the other parent. Custodial interference is a clear mark that the person is not willing to foster such a relationship, and this could easily lose them custody or visitation rights to the child.
Parental kidnapping and custodial interference are serious problems and you need an experienced attorney to help you. Call us today at (320) 299-4249 for a consultation and we can talk about alternatives for your children and your case.