Like many Californians, you have gone through a divorce and settled on a custody agreement. It is important to understand the exact terms of your custody order and comply with them. Your child’s co-parent may use any missteps as leverage to a judge into reworking your custody arrangement.
If you do not comply with your custody order, you risk facing serious criminal charges. Even if you are the father or mother of your child and have legal authority to make decisions on his or her behalf, prosecutors may charge you with abducting your own child or interfering with child custody.
Section 278 of the California Penal Code makes it a crime for a parent, relative or anyone else to maliciously take or conceal a child from his or her legal guardian. If you and your ex-spouse have scheduled parenting time, keeping your child longer than the scheduled allotment could put you in the risky territory of child abduction charges.
In California, child abduction is punishable by up to four years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Upon conviction, you are likely to face custody-related consequences as well. Judges do not typically look kindly on child abduction.
Interference with custody
While interfering with child custody may be charged as a criminal offense, there is an exception. If you have a good faith and reasonable belief that your child’s co-parent is likely to cause immediate physical or emotional harm to your child, you may be able to keep your child in spite of the terms of your custody agreement.
To avoid criminal charges, you must report the matter to the district attorney. You also must file for custody under the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act. While these may appear to be drastic steps, keeping your child safe is of paramount importance.