It’s an unfortunate reality that many divorce cases and child custody disputes can lead to a hostile “tug-of-war” situation, as parents jockey to gain advantages in legal proceedings. They may resort to ulterior motives and the children are pawns in a game that no one can win.
Hiding the child within Texas or taking the child out of the state can lead to serious legal consequences that you may not expect. The circumstances call into play sections of both the Texas Family Code and the Penal Code. It can come as a shock to realize that it’s against the law to interfere with a court’s order, even when you’re the child’s biological parent.
Before you take matters into your own hands and find yourself facing charges for Texas parental kidnapping, it’s critical to consult with an Austin child custody attorney. Your lawyer can advise you on legitimate, rightful options after learning more about your situation and the objectives you hope to achieve. In addition, you may find it useful to review some general information on child custody cases and the implications for misconduct.
Child Custody and Visitation Laws in Texas
UnderTexas’ statute on Conservatorship, Possession, and Access, parents have both rights and responsibilities related to their minor children, regardless of whether they were ever married or living under the same roof. If you’re going through a divorce, paternity proceedings, or a child custody dispute, it’s unlawful to interfere with the rights of the child’s other parent.
The same is true if a child custody order has already been entered in court. Under such circumstances, you’d be violating the judge’s legally binding order – whether you’re the custodial or non-custodial parent seeking to keep the child from the other person.
Plus, aside from the criminal charges or contempt of court, there are other consequences for concealing or taking the child out of the state. If child custody is still an issue before the court in a current case, you can be sure that the judge will consider your conduct when making a determination.
Staying in Compliance with the Law
To make sure you don’t run afoul of Texas law, you should understand the types of acts that may lead to criminal charges or affect your rights as a parent. It’s unlawful to:
- Take or retain a child in violation of a child custody order;
- Take the child out of the jurisdiction where a custody matter is pending, unless you have permission from the court;
- Take the child out of the US with the intent to deprive the other parent of access to the child;
You should note that there are exceptions if you’re fleeing violence or domestic abuse.
Consequences for Parental Kidnapping in Texas
By taking or retaining your child in violation of the law, you may trigger different sections of the Texas Penal Code. As such:
- You could be charged with kidnapping if you intentionally take your child without having lawful, physical control, i.e., possession as granted by a court order. Kidnapping is a Third Degree Felony, so you could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 for a conviction.
- Interference with Child Custody, including any act that contravenes a court order on custody, is a State Jail Felony. If convicted, you face six months to two years incarceration, plus a fine up to $10,000.
What to do if You Suspect Kidnapping by Your Child’s Other Parent
Any child custody proceeding can bring out the worst in people, but you do have rights if you fear that your child’s other parent may engage in misconduct. Taking action immediately is essential, especially where the court has not made a final determination on custody.
One strategy is to file an emergency court motion requesting that the court grant temporary custody to you. Retaining legal assistance from an experienced attorney is essential. Through this process, you have temporary custody and a court order in your hand – all the proof you need in the event that you need to pursue criminal charges against your child’s other parent. Then, when the matter has concluded, a permanent child custody order will be entered.
Get Legal Help from a Skilled Austin Child Custody Lawyer
If you have concerns about Texas parental kidnapping – either because of your own intentions or those of the child’s other parent – please contact the Law Office of Ben Carrasco, PLLC. You can schedule a consultation by calling our Austin, TX office at (512) 320-9126 or visiting us online. We can provide more information on your legal options after reviewing your specific circumstances.