Interference with custody of children means that an adult has knowingly or recklessly taken a child under 18 from the custody of their parent or guardian when they do not have the right to do so.
In the Pittsburgh area, interference with custody of children accusations usually are made when a parent keeps their child, or takes them, when they don’t have custody or visitation. Sometimes a parent doesn’t understand a court order or gets confused. Parents may also keep the child intentionally, because they simply want to or because they fear for their child’s safety.
If you are arrested for interference with custody of children, you can face felony charges. Taking a child, even if it’s your own, can even trigger an Amber Alert, which may result in additional negative consequences for you.
Penalties For Interference With Custody of Children
Someone who is not the child’s parent, and knew taking the child would cause serious alarm for the safety of the child but recklessly disregarded the likelihood of that alarm, can be charged with a felony of the second degree and punished with up to 10 years in prison. Parents who take a child when they do not have custody or visitation can be charged with a felony of the third degree and punished with up to seven years in prison. Interfering with custody of children can be considered a misdemeanor of the second degree under the following circumstances:
- the person charged acted with good cause for a period of time not exceeding 24 hours
- the child is subject of a Pennsylvania order of custody
- the person charged has either partial custody or visitation rights
- the person charge is a Pennsylvania resident and did not remove the child from the Commonwealth
If you are found guilty, and you are the child’s parent, you will be in jeopardy of losing your parental rights.
Some Defenses for Interfering with Custody
You believed your action was necessary to keep the child safe from danger to his or her welfare
The child was 14 or older and they came with you without being enticed, at their own instigation, and you did not have the intention to commit a criminal offense with them or against them.
You are the child’s parent or guardian or another lawful custodian, and you were not acting contrary to a court order.
Steps To Take If You Have Been Charged
If you have been charged with interference with custody of children, your first step should be to immediately hire a lawyer. You may be jailed overnight or for several days before your bond is set. While you are in jail, do not talk about the incidents that occurred with anyone other than your attorney. Don’t talk to the police or prosecutors unless your attorney is with you. Do not consider any offers the police or prosecutors may make without talking to your attorney first. Your lawyer will have your best interests in mind and can help you make the decisions that are right for you under your specific circumstances. Be sure to tell your lawyer everything that happened both before and during your arrest.