[Unthinkable Series] Can a Parent Kidnap Their Child?
In the state of Texas, the answer to that question is yes. Texas Penal Code § 25.03 makes it illegal for a parent to abduct a child who is under 18 years of age if:
Taking the child will violate a court custody order;
The abducting parent is not the child’s custodial parent and takes the child outside of the court’s jurisdiction without permission knowing that a suit for divorce, civil suit, or custody case is pending; or
The abducting parent takes the child outside of the United States with the intent to deprive the legally entitled co-parent of access.
In Texas, parental kidnapping is a felony offense. However, there are affirmative defenses that you should know about if you are concerned about this issue. Parents facing an accusation of parental kidnapping have a defense if:
The retention of the child was according to a valid court order for custody or visitation;
Their retention of the child was due to circumstances beyond their control, and they promptly notified the co-parent or made reasonable attempts to notify; or
they were entitled to possession of or visitation with the child and were fleeing family violence or the threat of family violence.
How To Protect Your Child Against Parental Kidnapping
If you believe your co-parent may kidnap your child in an attempt to deprive you of your parental rights, there are a few things you can do to minimize that risk.
Tip #1 Use Passport Law To Your Advantage
In 2001, Congress enacted the Two-Parent Consent Law. This law requires that both parents consent to a passport being issued to their child. So if your child does not have a passport yet, your co-parent should not be able to get one or take your child out of the country without your knowledge.
Of course, there are some exceptions to this law too. Your co-parent will be able to get a passport for your child if they can show that:
Despite diligent efforts, you could not be located for consent;
There is a court order in place that lets them get a passport and travel with your child without your consent;
your parental rights have been terminated; or
There is a “sudden, strong humanitarian reason” justifying the passport’s issuance without both parents’ consent.
To take advantage of this law, you can also register with the State Department’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. This program allows the State Department to alert enrolled parents of a pending passport application for their children.
Tip #2 Plan and Track
Another way to protect your child from parental kidnapping is to plan ahead. Contact family members, school officials, coaches, and after school programs to discuss your custody arrangements and alert them to any potential threats. You can also track your child’s whereabouts, whether through check-in phone calls or GPS tracking software.
Tip #3 Seek Help From The Courts
If the threat of parental kidnapping is an overwhelming concern, consider going back to court to secure a temporary restraining order (“TRO”). To secure the TRO, it helps if you keep a detailed record of the events and circumstances that lead you to believe that a restraining order is necessary.
Tip #4 Get Help From An Attorney
Fighting back against parental kidnapping or the threat of parental kidnapping is not something you want to take on alone. So retaining credible and experienced legal counsel is crucial to stay safe and sane for the road ahead.
If you have concerns about parental kidnapping or need help getting your child back, Angela F. Brown and Associates can help. Contact us to schedule a private and confidential consultation for your custody case today.
This is the second article in our Unthinkable Series. During the series, we’ll publish articles about some of the unique custody cases we’ve encountered in our law office, along with practical information to help if you’re facing a similar challenge. Then we’ll host a live Q&A session where you can get your custody questions answered in real-time later in the week. If you have questions about this series or would like to submit a question for our live Q&A, please contact our office here.