Divorce and custody can be difficult, emotionally fraught proceedings. In some cases, a parent may intentionally keep their child from the other parent. This is colloquially known as “parental kidnapping,” and it can have serious consequences.
What is parental kidnapping?
Minnesota state law makes depriving another of their custodial or parental rights a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison and up to $8,000 in fines.
In divorce and custody cases, this can happen when one parent is unhappy with the court order and decides to take matters into their own hands. Depriving someone of their custodial or parental rights can be as simple as refusing to let the other parent pick their child up for their parenting time, in violation of a court order. In extreme cases, one parent may conceal the child and refuse to tell the other parent where they are, or leave the town, state or country.
Defenses to depriving a parent of custodial or parental rights
There are some affirmative defenses to “parental kidnapping.” A parent may prove they reasonably believed their actions were necessary to protect the child or themselves from physical or sexual assault, or “substantial emotional harm” to the child. They may also prove that their actions were authorized by a court order prior to the violation, or the other parent consented to their actions.
While it’s important for parents to follow custody and visitation court orders as written, there may be emergency situations (such as abuse) where sharing custody could be dangerous. Minnesota courts have the power to make emergency custody decisions in such cases. Call your custody attorney immediately for advice on how to proceed. If you are in immediate danger, call law enforcement.
Call the trusted custody lawyers at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A. in St. Paul, MN for help navigating your child custody proceedings.
"Tori had a thorough understanding of my situation and made excellent recommendations to resolve my concerns. She was persistent on communication and handled everything in a very timely manner. I would definitely hire her again in the future if needed." - M.K.
"With Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A., it is like having a family physician. They are all knowledgeable, thorough, comforting, and the only call I need to make for all my legal needs for many years to come. No matter what the matter, I totally trust their advice and commitment to me and my family." - J.N.
"Mary from APH Law helped me thru a difficult divorce. She and the entire staff was there for me every step of the way helping me on what to do next. They listened to what I wanted and helped me achieve what matter the most to me in the divorce settlement." - Dana C.
"I chose APH after my initial consultation with Mary. I felt my best interest would be represented. The entire process went excellent, the attorneys and staff communicated effectively and efficiently with me throughout the process as they needed to. Being new to the legal process and verbiage, they walked me and talked me through the next steps and the jargon, I felt completely comfortable and represented. I hope I never have to use legal services again but if I do I will call Mary at APH Law and know that I will be taken care of." - Jeff M.
"Divorce is a time of emotion and stress. Mary Pfeifer , My lawyer was professional and compassionate. She was very informative through the process. Her insight helped me in my decisions. She worked hard to obtain a settlement which was fair to both parties. Though, I hope I won't need her help again. It is reassuring to know a good person that is willing to help." - Rod S.
"I first came to Ms. Jacquelyn Lutz of Appelhof, Pfeifer and Hart in October of 2016. It was definitely the worst time in my life and she compassionately spoke with me about my options. Ms. Lutz thoroughly explained the laws, statutes, process and what to expect going forward. What was supposed to be one case, turned into three intricate cases that took a huge toll on me and my family. Ms. Lutz represented me in court on all three cases with a vast knowledge of the laws and how to proceed accordingly. During all three cases she kept me informed, calm, gave me resources to utilize, and (most important) gave me a realistic view of what may come next. Ms. Lutz knew each case required a great deal of knowledge and creative thinking on how to legally proceed forward with each case. My family and friends are forever grateful for the amazing representation by Ms. Lutz. I highly recommend Ms. Lutz for anyone needing or considering superb representation for any kind of family law. " - M.H.