Does New Jersey Have “Parental Kidnapping” Laws?
The short answer: Yes.
The long answer: When a parent does not believe a custody order is fair, they will sometimes -unwisely- defy the order and take matters into their own hands. Do not attempt this. Best case scenario, ignoring the terms of a custody order can lead to “contempt of court” charges. Worst case scenario, it can be considered “parental kidnapping.”
Custody orders are not suggestions, they are laws enforced by the courts. In the eyes of the State of New Jersey, anyone deliberately interfering with a custody arrangement is committing a crime.
Concealing a minor child from his/her parent will likely cost you thousands of dollars in legal fees and damages, cause emotional harm to the child, and land you in jail.
According to N.J.S.A. 2C:13-4, a person is guilty of interference with custody if they:
- Detain a minor child with the purpose of concealing the child, thereby depriving the other parent of custody/parenting time
- Detain or conceal a minor child to evade the jurisdiction of NJ Courts in anticipation of a legal order that will affect their custody, or the protective services needs of the child
- Detain or conceal a minor child in violation of a court-issued custody/parenting time order
To qualify under these criteria, the child must be detained for more than 24 hours. There is no statute of limitations for these violations.
Parental Kidnapping Can Be a Federal Crime
The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA) makes it a federal crime to leave the country with a child under the age of 16 with intent to deprive a parent of custody/parenting time. State and local law enforcement may also request assistance from the FBI to locate and return the child, which brings more serious charges, and more serious legal bills.
If you were thinking about fleeing to a state with more favorable custody laws, think again. The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) was created in 1980 to give the child’s home state preferred jurisdiction over other states.
Can Parental Kidnapping Be Prevented?
If you suspect your ex-spouse might attempt to defy a custody order, or pre-emptively flee the state or country with your child, you can file an emergent application for custody with the court. If your application is granted, make sure all daycare and school employees are aware of the situation and prepared to enforce the custody order.
Is There Any Excuse for Disobeying a Custody Order?
The offending parent may be able to defend themselves against kidnapping charges in the following circumstances:
- If there was an imminent threat of domestic violence or child abuse, and the offending parent contacted the police, county prosecutor, or the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) to disclose the location of the child within 24 hours
- If the offending parent sincerely believed they had the consent of the other parent to deviate from the custody arrangement
- If the child is older than 14 years of age and left of his/her own volition
Always Follow the Law and Seek Professional Counsel
If you don’t like your existing custody arrangement, you have the right to challenge it in court. You do not have the right to violate your existing arrangement.
Kidnapping is kidnapping, regardless of the offender’s relationship to the child. Always follow the law and seek legal counsel before making any major custody decisions.
The family lawyers at Arons & Solomon, P.A. hold decades of experience in all areas of New Jersey custody. Contact us for a free initial consultation to protect your child’s best interest, and get the custody results you deserve.Request a Free Consultation »