Every parent wishes that their child has a relationship with their ex, but not at the expense of their own relationship. And the most serious disagreements between co-parents usually involve children. However, the court resolves such issues based on the best interests of the minor.
Specific circumstances surrounding your situation determines whether the court convicts you for parental kidnapping or not. However, a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can do the hard work for you to get the best outcomes from the accusations.
WHAT DEFINES PARENTAL KIDNAPPING?
With a good defense, you can beat parental kidnapping charges in California. For starters, both you and your spouse have equal access to the child in the absence of a court order. This means that either you or your ex can take the minor on a trip without the other parent’s permission – no matter how frightening or upsetting it might be for them.
Factors that the court considers before you are charged for parental kidnapping include:
- Existence of court orders on custody
- Your legal status, as the parent accused of kidnapping
- Your intent as the parent accused of kidnapping
Notably, if the child is above the consenting age when you take them, you cannot be convicted for parental kidnapping – unless:
- If it is proven that they did not agree to come with you, and you coerced them
- The child has special needs and is incapable of making decisions by themselves
CAN I TAKE MY CHILD IF MY EX DENIES ME VISITATION RIGHTS?
You can make up for the visitation time when the custodial parent failed to adhere to the visitation schedule in the order or the agreement. It is essential to note all the missed visits and agree on the make-up dates with your ex. But if they won’t agree to it, taking self-help measures like parental kidnapping isn’t the best option.
Your ex can call the police to arrest you if you take the child without their consent outside the scheduled visitation time – clearly not a good sight for your child to see. Instead, speak to a knowledgeable lawyer in Los Angeles who will draft a letter to your ex concerning the missed visitation days. And if they don’t act, they can file a case to help enforce your rights.
WHAT IF I WANT TO TRAVEL ABROAD WITH MY CHILD?
If you share parental responsibility with your ex and have no child restrictions or arrangements – you cannot go abroad with the child without their consent lest you be charged with international parental kidnapping. But if your co-parent cannot give you the written permission, you can apply to the court to permit you instead. Remember to make the application months before the scheduled travel date since it can take some time to be granted.
In case you bear parental responsibility alone and have no restrictions or orders in place – you can travel abroad without the other parent’s permission. If you have the Main Care Arrangement Order, you have 28 days to travel overseas with that child; without permission.
CAN I LEGALLY TAKE MY CHILD FROM AN EX WHO IS THE PRIMARY CUSTODIAN?
If your ex is abusive or exhibits neglectful or dangerous behaviors towards the child, you can take them away and ask the court to review their custodial rights. Some of the steps you need to take in such situations include:
- Reporting the abuse to the police
- Getting a restraining order
- Get help from relatives, neighbors, or friends that have witnessed the abuse
- Record the dates and time when the abuse occurs
- Get video footage of the neglect through a private investigator
WHAT CAN MY EX DO IF I LEAVE THE JURISDICTION WITH THE CHILD?
Your ex can press charges against you if you leave the state or the country with the child and fail to notify them. Kidnapping in California attracts a fine of up to $10,000 and an imprisonment period of eight, five, or three years. And even if you are not convicted for criminal charges, the family court can penalize you.
The family court judge can decide to give your ex sole custody of the child or grant them more parenting time thereafter. You can argue that there was a misunderstanding and that you thought your ex had granted you permission. A skilled Los Angeles kidnapping lawyer can evaluate the circumstances and come up with a good defense.
WHAT DOES MY EX NEED TO PROVE TO CHARGE ME FOR PARENTAL KIDNAPPING?
If your co-parent accuses you of parental kidnapping, they bear the burden of proof. He/she has to prove that you intended to deprive them of their parental rights when you took the minor. They can argue that:
- You have a prior criminal record
- You have a history of child abuse, domestic violence, or mental instability
- You recently liquidated assets, closed bank accounts, quit a job, or sold a home
- You have no reason to stay in the area because you are financially independent, can take a job anywhere, or are unemployed
- Your family and friends live out of the country or the state
- You have familial ties or citizenship in your country of origin
- You lack strong ties to the child’s home state
- You have threatened or planned to abduct the child before the current incident
GUIDANCE FROM AN EXPERIENCED ATTORNEY IN CALIFORNIA
The terms of your custody order in a divorce usually determine if you can make decisions on behalf of a child solely, or if you must involve your ex-spouse. A Los Angeles kidnapping lawyer can look at the documents, simplify the legal jargon, and explain what you can or cannot do with or without your ex’s notice or permission.
Highly-heated custodial conflicts can manifest in children through anxiety, depression, withdrawal, clinging, fearfulness, regression, or lapses in toilet training. But doing things the legal way reduces the impact on the minors. So, speak to an experienced attorney in California to resolve child issues today.