Custody and divorce cases usually mean that emotions run high, and parents can bitterly disagree on what is best for a child. Even when there is already a court order for custody or visitation in place, parents may still have disputes about what is best or even what the terms of the custody order actually mean. In some extreme circumstances, these disputes may lead to one parent taking matters into his or her own hands and kidnapping the child.
In New Jersey, parental kidnapping is codified in the penal code as custodial interference. New Jersey Code 2C:13-4 provides there are four different types of custodial interference. First, if a parent takes a child or detains a child with the purpose of concealing that child, it is a crime if done with the purpose of depriving the other parent of custody or visitation time. Second, if the parent takes, detains, or conceals the child with the purpose of depriving the other parent of custody or visitation after being served with notice of a process or if he or she has actual knowledge of an ongoing divorce or custody action, this can be custodial interference. This section applies even in the absence of a temporary or final order having been entered to determine custody or visitation. Third, if a parent conceals or hides a child, depriving the other parent of custody or visitation, when the concealing parent has actual knowledge or service of an action involving child protective services, he or she can be found guilty of this crime. Finally, if there is already a temporary or final order issued that determines custody or visitation and a parent takes or conceals a child from the other parent in violation of that order, he or she can be guilty of custodial interference. Note that in only one of these four instances is it necessary that there actually be an order outlining the rights and responsibilities of each party.
The penalties for custodial interference are rightfully severe. If a parent is found to have committed any one of these crimes, he or she could serve three to five years in jail and face a fine up to $15,000. However, if the parent took the child outside of the United States or took the child for more than 24 hours, the potential penalties increase to five to ten years in jail and a fine of $150,000.Custodial interference is a serious crime. We have experience helping our clients deal with this issue in the framework of their divorce and custody cases. Contact us today at (732) 529-6937 to talk about keeping your children safe and how a family court is likely to handle these types of offenses.