Texas Interference with Child Custody – Penal Code 25.03

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 What Is Considered Interference With Child Custody in Texas?

In Texas, interference with child custody is the criminal act of taking or restraining a minor who is younger than 18 years of age in violation of a custody order. If an individual has any questions regarding custodial interference, they should consult with a local Texas attorney.

What Is Child Custody?

Child custody involves decisions that are made between a child’s parents regarding their legal and physical custody. The laws that govern child custody will usually place the needs of the child first.

In certain cases, custody battles may result in custodial interference, also called parental kidnapping. Parental kidnapping occurs when a child’s relative abducts the minor from their parent or legal guardian’s custody.

What Is Parental Kidnapping?

Taking an individual without their consent is a criminal offense referred to as kidnapping. Parental kidnapping, or parent-child abduction, is the unlawful taking of a minor or a dependent adult without consent from their parent or legal guardian.

Kidnapping is a crime that is, in general, defined as the unlawful confinement of an individual against their will, which involves moving or concealing the individual in an unknown, secret, or hidden location. The kidnapper may be someone that the victim knows, for example, a relative or close family member, or they may be a complete stranger.

Parental kidnapping is under the category of kidnapping and, therefore, requires many of the same elements as kidnapping to convict a defendant. The main difference between kidnapping and parental kidnapping is that parental kidnapping happens when a parent abducts their own child without the consent of the child’s other parent in violation of an applicable child custody order.

It is important to note that if the parent who abducts the child has custodial rights over that child or if there is no child custody order in place, their conduct will not likely constitute parental kidnapping – the factors may vary by state.

There is a difference between a custody order and a parenting plan. A custody order outlines which parent has custody rights over the child. A parenting plan governs visitation issues.

It is very important for parents to have a custody order in place and approved by a court. This allows a parent to take legal action if the other parent violates the order.

If a parent has been accused of custodial interference, they should consult with an attorney as soon as possible to determine whether or not they can be charged with the offense.

What Are Some Examples of Parental Kidnapping?

One determining factor in parental abduction cases is whether or not the parent who commits the abduction has custodial rights over the child pursuant to a valid custody order. For example, suppose that a custody order provides that Parent A does not have custody or visitation rights with the child during summer vacation.

Suppose that, despite this, Parent A asks Parent B if the child could go with them for a vacation. If Parent B does not allow the child to go on vacation, then Parent A is not permitted to take the child.

If Parent A takes the child on vacation anyway, they may be charged with custodial interference. This scenario, however, may end differently if there was no formal child custody order from a court.

For example, Parent A would likely not be arrested or charged with parental abduction. If the parties did not have any formal court order that outlined each of their rights related to their child, each parent has equal parental and custodial rights over the child.

Another factor that a court may examine prior to making a determination is whether the parent who took the child was their biological parent. In other words, the legal status of the individual who was accused of abduction would matter to a court.

For example, if two parents raise a child together but only one is the child’s biological parent, the biological parent would not be convicted of parental kidnapping. This is because the child lawfully belongs to the biological parent based on parental rights.

What Are the Type of Acts Considered Interfering With Child Custody?

Acts that would be considered interfering with the custody of a child in the State of Texas include:

  • Knowingly violating the expressed terms of a judgment, including any temporary orders, by taking or retaining the child;
  • Taking or retaining the minor when the person has not been awarded custody of the child by the court and leaves the jurisdiction;
  • Retaining or taking the minor outside of the United States with the intent to deprive another individual of custody of the child.

Is It a Crime in Texas to Agree to Abduct a Child From Someone’s Custody?

Yes, it is a crime in Texas to engage in an agreement to abduct from custody. Under these laws, an individual is guilty if they agree to or promise to abduct a minor who is younger than 18 years old from the custody of another or two or more individuals conspired to kidnap the minor.

Is This Crime the Same as Parental Kidnapping?

Agreement to abduct from child custody is not the same as parental kidnapping. As noted above, parental kidnapping occurs when an individual abducts a minor.

The individual who commits parental kidnapping is a parent or family member. With an agreement to abduct from custody, there is no agreement before the kidnapping occurs.

What Is the Penalty for Interference With Child Custody?

Interference with child custody is classified as a jail felony. If a defendant is convicted of interference with child custody, they may face:

  • Between 180 days and two years in a Texas state jail;
  • $10,000 fine;
  • Fines and time in state jail.

What Is the Punishment for Agreeing to Abduct a Child?

Agreeing to abduct a child is classified as a state jail felony that is punishable by:

  • 180 days to two years in a Texas state jail;
  • $10,000 fine;
  • Both a fine and state jail time.

Are There Any Defenses I Can Use to Interfering With Child Custody?

Yes, there may be some defenses that are available in Texas to an individual facing charges of interfering with child custody, including:

  • The individual returned the child within three days after the crime occurred;
  • Taking or retaining the child was done according to a valid court order;
  • Retaining or taking the child was due to circumstances beyond the individual’s control.

Should I Talk to a Lawyer About My Case?

If you are facing interference with child custody charges in the State of Texas, it is important to consult with a Texas criminal lawyer. If you are convicted of this offense, it may lead to severe legal consequences as well as jeopardizing your chances of having access to your child.

A felony conviction can affect many things in your life outside of your criminal record. This may include rights such as your right to vote, own a firearm, and obtain certain jobs.

It is important to contact a lawyer as soon as you can to determine the possible defenses that may be available in your case. Your lawyer will explain the laws in Texas to you and represent you when you have to appear in court.

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