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Can I be charged with kidnapping my own child?

Kidnapping is generally defined as the taking of a person through coercion or against his or her own will. However, when it comes to your own child or a minor that is a close relative, the definition differs slightly.

In your situation, the child may have willingly wanted to come with you, perhaps on a holiday or an international trip. But if this violates the child custody agreement in place and it is not permitted by the primary custodian, then it likely constitutes kidnapping.

What does the federal law say?

Under federal law, a kidnapping charge is a serious felony. This means that a guilty verdict could lead to jail time of up to 20 years. However, charges are somewhat lighter in parental kidnapping cases that occur internationally. They hold a maximum of three years in jail.

How international child abduction is different

It is becoming more common for a parent to violate child custody by effectively kidnapping his or her child and taking him or her abroad. This is being dealt with internationally by 80 countries with the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

How can I defend myself against a parental kidnapping charge?

There are many defenses to parental kidnapping, since a serious crime was convicted, although there is often no malicious or violent intent involved. The parent may not have known that he or she was violating child custody if the child gave his or her consent. The crime will also be judged on the perceived intent of the defendant.

If you have violated your child custody agreement or have been accused of parental kidnapping, you should treat this very seriously and conduct thorough research so that you are well-prepared.

Source: FindLaw, "Kidnapping," accessed Jan. 17, 2018

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