Learn How to Deal with Criminal Interference in Child Custody Cases in NJ
Abduction of children by their non-custodial parent is happening with more frequency in the United States. In fact, authorities find that more than 90% of child abductions are the deed of one of the parents.
One reason for the increase is that people from different countries are marrying each other more often, and the divorce rate for them, and for everyone, is very high. And if one parent changes his or her mind about the custody agreement, they may decide on their own to change the situation. As a consequence, more than 200,000 parents kidnap their children every year in the U.S. Though we may feel sympathy for the offending parent, what they’ve done is actually a crime with serious consequences. The people most hurt are the children themselves.
The act of kidnapping by a parent is not merely a custody issue. It’s a crime under NJ law. And no, the courts do not agree with the old saying that possession is nine-tenths of the law.
In this article, we’ll define parental kidnapping in New Jersey, the options a parent has who is afraid a kidnapping might occur, the legal consequences for the person convicted of it, and the viable defenses a person might have for doing it.
Delineating Parental Kidnapping Under New Jersey Law
According to the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice – Title 2C, Section 2C:13-4, passed in 2013, kidnapping by a parent is defined as interference with custody and includes:
1) Taking a child (a minor, that is) with the intent to hide him or her and thereby deprive the child’s other parent of custody and parenting time with him or her;
2) In the gap of time between becoming aware of an upcoming action or order affecting custody but prior to the action or order becoming official, a parent takes or hides the child, either in New Jersey or in another state, with the intent of depriving the other parent of custody and parenting time or to evade the ruling of the courts of New Jersey;
3) After a temporary or final restraining order that spells out custody rights, one parent takes or hides a child in violation of the order.
Absconding with a child to a foreign country with no intent of return is actually not a state crime but a federal crime, punishable with up to three years in prison, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
How Can I Protect My Child from Being Kidnapped by their Other Parent?
For some families, a restraining order may be what’s needed to keep a parent who presents a real threat from getting in the vicinity of the child. Or a comprehensive custody order might need to be in place to limit or even to deny the other parent’s visitation rights.
In both of these scenarios, the burden of proof is on the parent seeking to restrain the other parent from seeing the child. You will need a convincing body of evidence to persuade a judge that there should be close restrictions on visitation, or no visitation at all, to protect the child. Judges are reluctant to keep a child from seeing both parents. If necessary, our lawyers can help you gather the right evidence.
Legal Ramifications of Kidnapping my Child in NJ
A person convicted of parental kidnapping can be charged with a third degree crime or a second degree crime in New Jersey, depending on the circumstances of the case. For a second degree crime, applicable to taking a child outside of the U.S. for more than 24 hours, a defendant may be forced to pay a fine of as much as $150,000 and to spend time in prison, specifically between 5 and 10 years. In cases involving criminal interference with custody that occurs in the United States, the charge is considered a third degree crime and thus, subject to a prison term ranging from 3 to 5 years. As an important aside, even a third degree crime for violating N.J.S.A. 2C:13-4 does not benefit from the presumption of non-incarceration that other third degree offenses typically have attached.
Viable Defense Options if you are Accused of Kidnapping Your Child in New Jersey
You and your lawyer will need to prove clearly and convincingly that:
- You truly believed that the abduction was necessary to protect the child from abuse and danger. However, you will have no defense if you did not notify authorities within 24 hours, either the police of the town your child lived in, or the county prosecutor’s office in the county your child lived in, or the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.
- You reasonably believed that the other parent, or a state agency with authority, had consented to taking or detaining the minor child.
- The child is age 14 or older and was taken with his or her own volition, with no intent on the parent’s part to commit a criminal offense either with or against the child.
In a Parental Kidnapping Case, it’s Critical to Seek Legal Representation from a Firm Well-Versed in Both Family and Criminal Law in Monmouth and Ocean County, NJ
There are a number of factors that go into an indictment for parental kidnapping. The Bronzino Law Firm has in-depth knowledge of all the factors that have to be proven in order to prosecute someone charged with parental kidnapping successfully. To avert kidnapping from ever happening, talk to us about custody agreements and restraining orders. Get in contact with our firm, and we’ll discuss your options with you if you’re concerned about a kidnapping happening.
Our lawyers can also use our expansive defense experience to defend a parent accused of kidnapping. In the past, we have made such convincing cases for defendants that sentences have been reduced or dismissed. If you’ve been arrested for parental kidnapping, you will need an expert criminal defense lawyer to present your case in court. Don’t ever talk about the incident without a lawyer present. If and when the police question you, politely refuse to answer and ask for your attorney. Bronzino Law Firm will discuss your options with you if you’re in this predicament.
If you are involved in a parental kidnapping or interference with custody case in Manasquan, Sea Girt, Jackson, Belmar, Marlboro, Beach Haven, Tinton Falls, Toms River, and nearby towns in Ocean and Monmouth Counties, contact us at (732) 812-3102 to connect with one of our lawyers, who will listen to your case, explain the process, and how we can help you.