As hard as child custody attorneys and the Texas family court try to create the fairest outcome in custody cases so that co-parenting is possible, sometimes things do not turn out the way everyone would like.
While parents always do have the ability to go back to court for modifications to the custody orders, some will instead take matters into their own hands.
Because of this, custody lawyers find that some parents may be guilty of parental kidnapping and occasionally without even realizing it.
Parental kidnapping does happen in Texas and all parents involved in any stage of a divorce must be aware of this action and understand its implications.
What Defines Parental Kidnapping?
You hear about it in the papers, in the Amber alerts that are sent - someone has removed a child from where they belong and that someone is often reported to be a parent.
Parental kidnapping is a serious crime in Texas, one that can result in significant penalties.
Though it may not seem possible that a parent can be guilty of kidnapping their own child, it is reported by child custody attorneys that it happens more frequently than might be expected.
As a beginning point of understanding what is and is not parental kidnapping, either parent prior to filing for divorce can take his or her child and even remove them from Texas and that is not considered kidnapping.
Parental kidnapping happens when a parent takes his or her child while in the midst of a divorce or custody proceeding or after custody orders have been filed that specifically prohibited such action.
Custody lawyers see many instances where parents end up abducting their own children unintentionally by simply not knowing the law.
Yet many other times, it is very intentional and parents know what they are doing in their attempts to cross state lines with their child.
What Are Texas Grounds for Parental Kidnapping?
According to Texas law, penal code Section 25.03 states that a parent is guilty of parental abduction if they take a child under the age of 18 while being aware of any of these three factors:
- There is a pending custody case underway or an action has been filed by a parent or custody attorney.
- Taking the child violates an existing judge’s order.
- The kidnapping parent was not awarded custody and takes the child anyway.
What Are The Penalties for Parental Kidnapping?
When parents choose to abduct their own child rather than turn to their custody lawyer for help to renegotiate custody terms or even to file for custody order modifications, the penalties can be severe.
Parental kidnapping carries state felony charges and is punishable with jail time up to two years and fines up to $10,000.
The penalties may be even more severe in cases where a deadly weapon is used during the abduction, the child is held for ransom, or child abuse is involved.
Family Law Attorneys Can Help Prevent This
While every parent hopes that his or her custody case can end on a positive note and fair co-parenting can happen, child custody attorneys know that this is not always the case.
Any parent who believes his or her child is at risk of abduction by the other parent should reach out to a custody lawyer who can work with them to protect that child and stop parental kidnapping before it happens.
Whether the resolution lies in custody order modifications, restraining orders, or other legal avenues, it is better to act early than wait for an abduction to actually occur!
Schreier & Housewirth Family Law
1800 West Bowie Street, Suite 200-E
Fort Worth TX 76110
Gregory L. Housewirth is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist practicing in Fort Worth Texas. With 30 years of family law experience, Mr. Housewirth has represented hundreds of clients in divorce, custody, CPS, modification, and grandparent cases. In addition, Mr. Housewirth is a qualified family law mediator and a member of Collaborative Law Texas, a practice group dedicated to promoting collaborative divorce in Texas.