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Custodial interference: A mistake you don't want to make

There's something about a custody battle that can bring out the absolute worst in people. Sometimes, people even let their emotions drive them to acts that are both desperate and illegal.

We're talking about custodial interference. Custodial interference is the legal term for what happens when someone other than the custodial parent intentionally keeps a child away from that parent. For example, any of the following situations could be considered custodial interference:

  • A grandparent picking a child up at school and taking the child home without the custodial parent's permission
  • A child's parent refuses to deliver the child to the other parent for scheduled parenting time or does not return a child from a visitation in a timely manner
  • A relative or nonrelative harbors a teenager who has run away from home and helps hide the teen's location from the custodial parent
  • One parent refuses to allow electronic communication from the other parent when that communication is specifically ordered in the custody agreement
  • One parent absconds with the child to another state (or another country) in order to circumvent a custody order

As you can see, the range of what constitutes custodial interference can vary from troublesome and upsetting to outright horrifying -- depending on how severe the interference is and how long it goes on.

When custodial interference happens, the court can take a number of actions. These include:

  • Revisiting the custody order and modifying it to further limit the offending party's time with the child
  • Imposing supervised visitation on the offending parent
  • Ordering make-up time for the parent who was deprived of his or her visitation
  • Involving Children's Services and other professionals, like family therapists
  • Imposing fines and jail time on the offending parent

In the most extreme cases, where a child has been abducted by a parent or another relative and removed from the state, it may also be necessary to get the police involved. In all cases, however, it's important to understand that custodial interference can be prosecuted as a crime -- and the consequences can be serious. A first offense can put you in jail for up to five months. A third offense can land you in prison for up to five years!

Don't allow your emotions to drive you to a foolish act. If you're involved in a contentious custody case, you need to put your energy into your legal strategy instead.

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