Parental Kidnapping: Charges, Penalties & Defense

Law gavel and parental kidnapping defense lawyer, David J. Kramer

Kidnapping is one of the worst fears for a parent. Most parents understandably try not to think about it.

However, for parents in contentious or abusive marriages or relationships, kidnapping is a fear that not many people on the outside will understand.

That’s because most kidnapping incidents are perpetrated by a parent, while stranger kidnapping is one of the rarest types of crimes in the world.

We have seen a rise in overall kidnappings since divorce is more prevalent, while the rate of stranger kidnappings has remained at the same, low level.

What is Parental Kidnapping?

There’s a quick answer to what is parental kidnapping, and there’s a more complicated answer.

The quick answer is that parental kidnapping is the same illegal action as any other kind of abduction only perpetrated by one of the child’s parents.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there are 200,000 parental abductions that meet criminal criteria per year.

It can look many different ways. For example:

  1. Parents attempt to take their children across state or country lines to keep them from the other parent who has either joint or sole custody.
  2. The parent who has been a victim of domestic abuse attempts to flee with the children to avoid the abuser.
  3. The parents keep the children in their home state in defiance of a court-ordered visitation.

And sometimes, these episodes end violently and tragically.

How do Parental Kidnapping Charges Look?

If you are charged with parental kidnapping, you could be facing harsh state and federal penalties.

Michigan Law and Penalties

The state of Michigan considers parental kidnapping a serious offense. According to Michigan Penal Code Section 750.350a, a parent who violates subsection (1) is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year and 1 day, or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both.

Federal Law

Under federal law, a parent who removes a child from the United States in this capacity is subject to federal prosecution, and if convicted, faces fines and imprisonment for up to 3 years.

Parental Kidnapping Dangers

One story, which you can read on the FBI website, of the kidnapping of 9-year-old Billy Hanson in 2014 illustrates both how difficult it is to evade arrest in cases like this, but also how harrowing it can be for the child involved.

Billy spent two months of the summer with his father in Washington State aboard his father’s boat.

However, his father, Jeff, decided he would be keeping Billy indefinitely. Jeff took Billy and sailed to the most remote island in the world – Niue – where the pair were eventually found.

Jeff spent seven months in prison, and Billy is left to recover from the traumatic experience, which included almost starving to death when they lost their food supply at sea.

Although extreme, this story doesn’t involve the kind of abuse that can sometimes be part of parental abductions. We tend to think that if children are taken by their parents, they are safe.

However, not all parents who kidnap their kids are doing it for the good of their children. In addition, sometimes these parents are estranged from their children beforehand. Police departments and courts have tragically gotten it wrong time and time again.

On the flip side, we understand that some divorce and custody battles involve one parent using the law to attempt to vilify the other parent.

What happens to an innocent parent whose late arrival becomes kidnapping allegations?

If you are facing abduction charges related to your divorce, we will fight for you. Don’t allow your reputation and freedom to be taken away from you because of this type of bogus allegation.

Experienced Michigan Defense Attorney

Parental kidnapping is a crime that the state of Michigan takes seriously. If you are facing this uphill battle, don’t face it alone. Call my office today.

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