As shocking as it may be, many parents find themselves guilty of “kidnapping” their own children. Child custody battles can become tense and heated. Instead of dealing with the situation, some choose to hide or flee with their child to punish or manipulate the other parent.
Kidnapping vs. interference with custody
In Georgia, kidnapping is when someone abducts another person and holds them against their will. A person convicted of kidnapping will face felony charges and may receive several years of imprisonment as punishment. The penalties are harsher the younger the victim is.
Interference with custody is a lighter but similar crime that occurs when one party intentionally deprives someone of custody by:
- Taking a child away from their legal parent or guardian
- Hiding a runaway child; or
- Holding a child past the allowable visitation time
Unlike kidnapping, interference with custody can apply even if the child chooses to go or stay with the parent. It violates a custody order and is considered a misdemeanor for first and second convictions, punishable by up to a year in prison. A third conviction or taking the child out of state would escalate the crime to a felony and may result in imprisonment of up to five years.
Cases of parental kidnapping can be complex. A parent may face accusations of kidnapping, even if it was only a case of interference. Meanwhile, a parent may genuinely believe taking the child was necessary to protect them or could not return the child due to unforeseen events.
Parents in such an upsetting situation should carefully consider their next course of action. Consulting with an attorney can help parents understand what legal options they have to get their child back to safety.