It’s not uncommon that in a divorce, one parent isn’t happy with the child custody order. They may think they deserve to have more parenting time than they were given.
Sometimes, neither parent is happy. This typically happens when parents can’t work out a custody arrangement on their own and have to let a judge make the decision based on what they consider the child’s best interests.
It’s in these situations where custodial interference occurs. It’s crucial for parents to realize that if they take their child without the other parent’s permission or fail to return them as scheduled, they can face not only a loss of parenting rights but potentially even criminal charges.
How does Pennsylvania law address custodial interference?
Laws vary by state, but let’s take a brief look at Pennsylvania law. Following are two statutes pertaining to custodial interference.
- Interference with custody of children: This is when someone “knowingly or recklessly takes or entices any child under the age of 18 years from the custody of its parent, guardian or other lawful custodian, when he has no privilege to do so.”
- Concealment of whereabouts of a child: This is when a person “removes a child from the child’s known place of residence with the intent to conceal the child’s whereabouts from the child’s parent or guardian…” This also includes “preventing the child from returning or being returned to the child’s known place of residence and, when the child’s parent or guardian has a reasonable expectation that the person will return the child, failing to return the child….”
There’s also a “luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure” statute that could also apply.
A viable defense for any of these actions would be if a parent reasonably believed they were protecting their child from domestic violence. Otherwise, you could face a misdemeanor charge for taking or keeping or child without your co-parent’s permission and, as noted, likely lose most of whatever parenting rights you have.
If you believe you deserve greater access to your child or that your co-parent is a danger to their safety or well-being, you need to go through the courts. If it’s an emergency, you still need to get the court involved as soon as possible. Having sound legal guidance will help you do what’s best for your child without risking an arrest or loss of parenting rights.