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Interference With Child Custody

Child custody disputes can cause a lot of stress for parents in Missouri. There may be long and drawn-out child custody disputes that have to be handled in court. Even after the court enters custody, visitation, and child support orders, the other parent may regularly violate the orders, leaving the other parent fighting for their rights to see their child. 

When a parent violates the family court's orders, the other parent may want to report the violations to the family court. However, interference with custody may also result in criminal charges. Unfortunately, the custodial parent may falsely claim the other parent violated the order to punish the parent, leaving them facing criminal charges. If you were falsely accused of interfering with child custody in Missouri, contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm today.

Missouri Statute 565.150: Interference with Custody 

Under Missouri Statute Chapter 565.150: “A person commits the offense of interference with custody if, knowing that he or she has no legal right to do so, he or she takes or entices from legal custody any person entrusted by order of a court to the custody of another person or institution.”

Penalties for Interference with Custody

Interference with custody can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony in Missouri, depending on the situation. Generally, interference with custody is a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties for a Class A misdemeanor include up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

If the person takes or entices the individual out of state or detains the child in another state, interference with custody is a Class E felony. The penalties for a Class E felony include up to 4 years in prison. However, the court may have the discretion to impose confinement for no more than one year in the county jail. 

In addition to prison time, there are continuing consequences of a felony on your criminal record. As an ex-felon, you may find it hard to get good housing or secure loans. As an ex-felon, too, you can lose your right to vote and your right to use and own a firearm. 

Lose Child Custody and Visitation Rights in the Future

A criminal conviction for interference with custody can significantly impact your parenting rights. The court will likely limit any future child custody and visitation options for you with your own child after a conviction for violating child custody orders. Future visitation may be limited or involve supervised visitation. This can be the most devastating aspect for many parents facing criminal custody violations. 

Expenses to Return the Child

In addition to any sentence or fines, the court may also assess any reasonable expenses incurred by the legal custodian or parent in searching for or returning the child. This may also include legal costs to enforce child custody orders. 

Keeping the Child After Legal Custody

Unlawful retention of any person following a period of temporary lawful custody is still considered interference with custody. If a parent had temporary custody during the visitation or as part of a shared custody agreement, unlawfully keeping the child may be treated the same as taking the child from lawful custody.  

Parents, Grandparents, Stepparents, and Others

Most child custody violations involve a parent keeping the child away from the custodial parent. However, interference with custody can include other relatives, including grandparents. Stepparents, the parent's significant other, or even 3rd parties can similarly face criminal charges for interfering with the legal custody of a child.  

Defenses to Interference with Child Custody  

There may be a number of defenses to child custody interference charges. The parent may have a valid reason for keeping the child from the other parent's custody. Additionally, the other parent may be falsely accusing the other parent of violating the custody orders. 

A parent may be able to seek an emergency petition for child custody. If the parent believes the child is being threatened with physical harm or abuse or will be subject to abuse if left in the legal custody of another, the parent should seek an emergency court order or petition for child custody. Seeking court approval is the legal approach to changing the custody agreement; however, a parent is often worried more about the safety of their child instead of following the proper court rules and regulations. Talk to your attorney if you kept a child from legal custody because you were worried your child was being abused. 

Parents who are falsely accused of a crime or violating custody orders may worry that it is simply the other parent's word against theirs. However, your experienced criminal defense attorney can investigate your case and identify inconsistencies of the accuser. Phone records, emails, and social media records may show that the other parent made false accusations of abuse and the accused parent is innocent. 

Parental Kidnapping

Parental kidnapping is a more serious charge that involves similar situations. Under Missouri Statute Chapter 565.153: “In the absence of a court order determining rights of custody or visitation to a child, a person having a right of custody of the child commits the offense of parental kidnapping if he or she removes, takes, detains, conceals, or entices away that child within or without the state, without good cause, and with the intent to deprive the custody right of another person or a public agency also having a custody right to that child.”

Parental kidnapping is a felony. Generally, parental kidnapping is a Class E felony, with penalties including up to 4 years in prison. However, where the child is detained or concealed for more than 60 days, the penalties can increase, as follows: 

  • Parental kidnapping for not less than 60 days but not longer than 119 days is a Class D felony;
  • Parental kidnapping for not less than 120 days is a Class B felony.

The penalties for a Class D felony include up to 7 years in prison. The penalties for a Class B felony include a prison sentence from 5 to 15 years. 

Child Custody Interference Defense Attorney 

Child custody disputes can be messy but you should not have to suffer a criminal conviction because of a custody dispute. There may be a number of legal reasons for violating a custody order. Additionally, the other parent may be making false accusations as a way to punish you or try to take away your parenting rights. 

Our team is an experienced Missouri family and criminal defense law firm who has successfully helped clients facing interference with custody charges. Contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm in Raymore today, online, or by calling (816) 331-9968.

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If you need assistance or have questions, please call us at (816) 331-9968 to schedule a consultation. We are here to help you through this process.