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If there’s no custody order, can a parent kidnap their child?

When one parent violates another parent's rights and refuses to allow them to spend court-ordered time with their child, this often adds up to parental kidnapping. Like any form of kidnapping, this is a very serious crime and may result in criminal charges and significant punishment, including jail time and loss of many privileges.

However, not every act that feels like parental kidnapping actually is. This area of the law can get very difficult to navigate. If you have concerns about a potential kidnapping situation in your own family, it is important that you clearly understand how the law applies in your circumstances and what legal options you have to protect yourself and your child.

Can a still-married spouse kidnap their child?

If parents are divorced or were never married, and if they have a court order that outlines how they share custody, then courts take it seriously when one parent prevents the other from spending court-ordered time with their child. In extreme circumstances, this may qualify as parental kidnapping, and, at the very least, probably qualifies as parenting time interference.

Even spouses who are still married to each other have rights to access to their children, but it is much more difficult to enforce these rights without some sort of court order or proof that the child faces danger.

While a court may take the rights of parents seriously, it typically does not step in and enforce parental rights if the family does not have a custody order in place.

Among other reasons, this is because it is difficult to determine the accused parent's intent. Under the law, it is usually illegal to maliciously deprive the other parent of their rightful custody, but proving malicious intent strong enough to justify legal action is not easy.

Also, it is legal for parents to disagree. If one parent wants to take a child camping for the weekend and the other parent does not want the child to go to camping, it is not illegal for the first parent to take the child camping. In most cases, this is not kidnapping, it is simply a family disagreement.

Know your rights so you can protect them

Protecting your rights as a parent is no simple task, and in order to protect these rights, you must know what they are. Make sure to take time to understand what the law has to say about your specific circumstances using the best legal resources and guidance that you have available. You have a great responsibility as a parent to build the best life that you can for the child you love, so make sure that you take this responsibility seriously, no matter what your family conflict may be.

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Weinman & Associates, P.C.
8200 North MoPac Expressway
Suite 230
Austin, TX 78759

Phone: 512-472-4040
Fax: 512-472-4086
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