Having our children kidnapped is one of the worst fears for any parent. Although we tend to imagine that faceless bogeymen with ransom requests are the ones responsible, in the vast majority of cases, it is the other parent who is responsible for the kidnapping. This typically occurs in cases where a parent does not believe a custody order is best for the child or is somehow unfair.
Under New Jersey law, custodial interference is a crime. New Jersey Statute 2C13-4 states that it is a crime if a child is “taken, detained, enticed, or concealed” from the other parent for more than 24 hours. The offending parent faces harsh penalties, including incarceration, payment of attorney’s fees for the other parent, and any fees or costs associated with recovering the child. According to this law, it becomes a crime if one parent hides the child from the other parent during that parent’s court ordered parenting time. Note that it is not a requirement that the offending parent transports the child elsewhere. It is sufficient for a parent to hide the child or keep the child from returning to the parent who is supposed to have custody during that time. In addition to state law penalties, it is possible for a kidnapping parent to face federal charges. Under the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA). If a parent is charged with kidnapping under a state law and then flees the state with the child, the offending parent could have federal charges filed against him or her in addition to the state charges.
There are options to help prevent parental kidnapping. If you believe that the other parent is about to kidnap your child, it is possible to file an emergency motion for custody with the court. This emergency motion could request that the other parent not have any parenting time at all until the situation has resolved. Alternatively, a restraining order could be an important or even necessary tool if there is domestic violence or child abuse involved in the case. In either case, it is important to provide a copy of the emergency order or restraining order to all of the child’s caregivers. A common strategy for parental kidnappers is to try to pick up the child from daycare or school, and then disappear.
Parental kidnapping is extremely serious, and we can help you understand the penalties and avoid it happening to you. We can answer your questions and help you and your child. Call us at (732) 479-4711 for an appointment.