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Understanding parental kidnapping and its consequences

Creating a custody agreement may prove the most contentious part of your divorce. If your spouse receives primary custody of your children, you may disagree with this arrangement. They may demonstrate behaviors that make you question their fitness to parent. Or, they may try limiting your custody time. Your concerns may make you consider breaking your agreement – or violating it outright. Yet, doing so would constitute parental kidnapping, which comes with serious consequences.

Defining parental kidnapping

Parental kidnapping may sound nefarious and violent, and sometimes it can be. But in Georgia, it refers to interfering with the terms of your custody agreement. If you’re trying to protect your children or assert your custodial rights, you may not think your actions meet the threshold for parental kidnapping. Yet, they may qualify as such if you:

  • Keep your children beyond your approved custody or visitation period
  • Convince your children to leave with you during your spouse’s custody time
  • Forcibly take your children away from your spouse during their custody time
  • Forcibly take your children to another state or country

Parental kidnapping’s consequences

If your spouse accuses you of parental kidnapping, law enforcement officials will take their claim seriously. Upon their first allegation, you may face a misdemeanor charge, a prison sentence between one and five months and a fine up to $500. Yet, your spouse may make further accusations against you. If it happens a second time, you may pay a fine up to $1,000 and spend up to one year in prison. If you’ve allegedly committed a third act of kidnapping, you will face felony charges and up to five years in prison. Your will also face automatic felony charges if you take your children out of state without your spouse’s or the court’s permission.

You may want to push the terms of your custody agreement to play a greater role in your children’s lives. But by doing so, you risk losing access to them. A family law attorney can help protect your parenting privileges if your spouse makes accusations against you.