What Happens if the Non-Custodial Parent Takes Your Child?
Every parent worries about kidnapping to a greater or lesser extent. Many people would be surprised to learn that the most common culprit of kidnapping is another family member, including a parent without the relevant custody rights. If your child’s other parent takes your child against your will and in violation of the court’s custody order, what are your options? What are the potential penalties? Continue reading to learn what happens when a non-custodial parent takes the kids in Texas, and call a dedicated Houston child custody lawyer for help with a custody matter.
It is a Crime to Kidnap Your Own Child
Parental kidnapping is a real phenomenon, and it is a real crime. It is a crime for any parent, relative, or other person to take away, hide, or keep a child away from the child’s rightful custodial parent. A parent who lost custody in a legal battle or who has yet to seek custody rights is just as guilty as any other party for taking a child away from their legal parent without permission. The same goes for boyfriends, girlfriends, step-parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and any other relative. A conviction for kidnapping can result in significant jail time and other penalties.
Legal Visitation is Not Kidnapping
Both parents are bound by the terms of the custody order if such an order is in place. That means that the non-custodial parent has the right to visitation if included in the order, just as the custodial parent has the right to legal and physical custody of the child. In fact, under Texas law, the non-custodial parent (called a “possessory conservator”) has certain default visitation rights absent an order to the contrary or as agreed upon by the parents. The non-custodial parent has the right to visitation on the first, third, and fifth weekends of every month, visitation on Thursday evenings each week, alternating holidays, and an extended period of visitation during the summer break. Non-custodial parents who live more than 100 miles away from the custodial parent and child have slightly different rights.
The custodial parent cannot unilaterally decide to withhold parenting time rights unless the child or co-parent would be in physical danger should the visitation be allowed. If you have custody and you believe your co-parent should not be permitted visitation, talk to your attorney and plan to go to court to adjust the custody order. Withholding court-ordered parenting time can subject you to legal sanctions for violating a court order, including limitations on your custodial rights and even jail time.
What Should You Do if the Non-Custodial Parent Takes the Child?
If the non-custodial parent takes the child in violation of their rights, there are steps to take to get the child back safe and sound. If possible, persuading the parent to return voluntarily is always encouraged. If they refuse, it is time to go to your attorney and the court. The court will issue an order for the non-custodial parent to return the child, at which point the police have the authority to get involved and seek to return the child. Depending on the circumstances, the non-custodial parent could be punished for violating a court order or might even be charged with kidnapping. If you have reason to fear your child may be harmed, you can seek emergency relief from the police and the courts.
If you’re dealing with family law issues including child custody, alimony, property division, child support, or any other family law matter in Texas, get professional help protecting your rights by contacting the experienced and effective Houston family law attorney Maria S. Lowry at 713-850-8859.