Yes, it is possible to kidnap your own child in North Carolina, and the penalties for a conviction of parental kidnapping can be severe. If a person takes of keeps his or her biological or adopted child for the purpose of keeping the other parent or legal guardian from having or finding the child, that act can be a felony.
A North Carolina child custody attorney can help if your ex unlawfully keeps your child from you during your custody or parenting time.
North Carolina’s Parental Kidnapping Law
North Carolina General Statute (NCGS) §14-39 governs kidnapping. While it is not specific to strictly parental kidnapping, it does apply to one parent who takes their child without the consent of the other parent and is in violation of the other parent’s custodial or visitation rights.
A person can be found guilty of parental kidnapping in North Carolina if they keep or restrain any child under the age of 16 without the consent of that person or their guardian. While the parent keep the child from the other parent may be considered a guardian, if they are keeping the child in violation of the other parent’s custody or visitation rights, then their actions may be considered kidnapping.
International Parental Kidnapping
Sometimes parents face the possibility that the other parent will take the child out of the United States and not return. Parents with dual citizenship, particularly in countries that do not honor U.S. custody agreements or the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, are a potential risk for this conduct.
There are some safeguards in this situation:
- Do not consent to the other parent obtaining a passport for the child. Both parents are supposed to sign for a minor child to get a passport.
- If the child already has a passport, ask the court to hold the passport during the divorce. The court is unlikely to keep the passport after the divorce.
- Notify the Department of State’s Office of Children’s issues of the situation. Ask them to notify you if someone applies for a passport for the child.
Even with these measures, a determined parent might find ways to circumvent the law, such as getting a counterfeit passport. A North Carolina Child Custody Attorney can help you navigate these issues.
What Remedies Do I Have if My Ex Kidnaps My Child?
If you possess a court order for custody or visitation and your spouse refuses to cooperate, you may file a motion for contempt. The judge may order that the other parent be held in criminal or civil contempt for their actions.
If your ex has taken your child, you may be able to obtain a temporary custody order. North Carolina law describes five grounds under which you may obtain a temporary custody order:
- To preserve the status quo
- To encourage stability in a deteriorating custody situation
- To prevent the minor’s removal from the state
- To return the minor to the rightful custodian
- To protect the minor from abuse, neglect, or other harm
The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act
Under this federal law, if a parent wishes to modify child custody orders, they must do so in the state in which the child resided over the past six months. This prevents one parent from leaving the state and trying to obtain a more favorable custody ruling if they have interfered with the custodial rights of the other parent.
Depending on the circumstances, you may also be able to have the other parent face criminal charges for kidnapping.
If your child has been taken from you by your ex and refuses to abide by your custody or visitation order, talk to one of our experienced child custody lawyers. Get in touch with our office today for a free consultation.