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Parental Kidnapping in Georgia

by Sharon Jackson  on May 11, 2023 under 

Kidnapping one's own child in violation of court orders can result in criminal charges. Cases of parental kidnapping are frequently reported in the news, as they can be quite compelling. A little known fact is that kidnapping does not always mean moving a person from one place to another. Kidnapping can also be the act of restraining a person from moving, or hiding them in one place. Let’s discuss  this.

Some cases may simply involve a parent failing to return a child after visitation, while others may involve a parent attempting to take the child away from the other party during a divorce or custody dispute. Regardless of whether the abduction was accidental or intentional, the parent responsible will likely not be looked upon favorably by the court in future custody proceedings.

In such situations, the child is almost certain to be the one who suffers the most. The child may experience emotional trauma that lasts for years, and the court may even determine that the offending parent is unfit to have further visitation or custody rights.

Is interference with custody a crime in Georgia?

According to Georgia code § 16-5-45, kidnapping is considered as "interference with custody" and occurs when a person violates the court-ordered agreement regarding shared custody without mutual understanding between both parents. The crime of interference with custody is committed when a person:

  • intentionally or carelessly entices a child away from the care of a parent or guardian,
  • intentionally hides a runaway child, or
  • deliberately holds a child after a legal visitation has ended.

The crime of interference with custody is considered a misdemeanor offense for the first and second convictions, with a possible prison sentence of up to one year for the second offense. However, the third conviction is regarded as a felony and may result in a prison sentence ranging from one to five years.

When interference with custody involves crossing state lines, it is classified as interstate interference with custody and is considered a felony. A conviction for this offense carries a prison sentence of one to five years.

In addition, there is a federal law known as the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act that prohibits a parent from abducting their child. This statute grants emergency jurisdiction to any state court that hears a kidnapping case involving a child who is in the state and in danger or who has been abandoned. Therefore, once the jurisdiction has changed, it becomes easier to pursue such cases under this federal law.

Can You Kidnap Your Own Child in Georgia?

Providing a definitive answer to this question can be very complex and may depend on various factors. Therefore, we strongly recommend seeking legal advice from a qualified lawyer who can offer specific guidance based on your unique situation.

It is worth noting that parental kidnapping is a prevalent form of child abduction, particularly in contested custody battles. In cases where a parent takes their child from the other parent without legal custody or a court order, they can face prosecution for parental kidnapping.

In general, parental kidnapping happens when one parent removes their child from the other parent without the other parent's consent or a court-ordered agreement. Even if the child willingly stays with the offending parent, kidnapping charges can still apply. Moreover, if the parent isolates the victim or makes it easier to commit another violation while lessening the risk of detection, they may still be found guilty of kidnapping.

Parents may have different reasons for kidnapping their child. For example, they may believe that leaving the child with the other parent could result in harm or death. Alternatively, they may seek to punish and hurt the other parent by taking the child away.

Parental kidnapping is a serious offense in Georgia, and the severity of the punishment may depend on the circumstances of the case. For instance, if the victim is aged 14 or older, the offending parent may face up to 20 years in prison. However, the punishment might be considerably harsher if the victim is under the age of 14, including life in prison or a split sentence of up to 25 years in jail followed by a lifetime of probation.

In cases where the kidnapping was for ransom or resulted in physical injury to the victim, the punishment could include life imprisonment or even the death penalty. It is crucial to consult with a lawyer to understand the specific legal consequences that may apply to a particular case.

Kidnapping your own child is a serious offense that can result in severe legal consequences. To defend yourself against kidnapping charges, you must provide compelling evidence that you took your child to protect them from imminent harm. This may include situations where your child was at risk of physical or sexual abuse, a hazardous living condition such as drug usage by a family member, or other dangerous conditions.

It is crucial to seek legal guidance from an attorney or law enforcement before taking any action in such situations, as they are not common. This ensures that you are acting within the legal boundaries. Opting for a change in custody arrangement is also a viable and legal alternative, which is often the safest and healthiest approach to improve the child's circumstances.

Contact us

If you or anyone you know is having concerns regarding parental kidnapping or has encountered parental kidnapping, it is recommended that you get in touch with an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the legal system.

You can contact Georgia Family Law Attorney Sharon Jackson immediately at (678) 909-4100 to explore how we can assist you in your family law case.


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