Parental Kidnapping in Virginia

Posted on December 7th, 2012, by Livesay & Myers, P.C. in Custody, Family Law. 1 Comment

KidnappingUnder Virginia law, is it possible for a parent to kidnap his or her own kid? People in general seem to understand that kidnapping or childnapping involves the “taking” of a child. However, the underlying presumption many make is that the “taking” is of someone else’s child. How could it ever be illegal for a parent to take custody of their own child?

Virginia law is clear: anyone, even parents, can be convicted of kidnapping their children. However, the consequences are much worse if the child is removed from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Virginia Code § 18.2-47 states that any person who, by force, intimidation or deception, and without legal justification or excuse, seizes, takes, transports, detains or secretes another person with the intent to deprive such other person of his personal liberty or to withhold or conceal him from any person, authority or institution lawfully entitled to his charge, shall be deemed guilty of “abduction.” The terms “abduction” and “kidnapping” are synonymous and therefore interchangeable under the Virginia Code.

If the kidnapping is committed by the parent of the person abducted and punishable as contempt of court in any proceeding then pending, the offense shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor in addition to being punishable as contempt of court. However, such offense (parental kidnapping punishable as contempt of court in any proceeding then pending), where the person abducted is removed from the Commonwealth by the abducting parent, shall be a Class 6 felony in addition to being punishable as contempt of court.

A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of $2,500 and a jail sentence of up to one year. In contrast, a Class 6 felony is also punishable by a fine of $2,500, but the potential jail sentence is between one and five years.

Do not be confused as to whether a parent can be found guilty of kidnapping his or her own child in Virginia—the answer is yes. This does not mean that a parent with custody concerns is without options. Custody is always modifiable in Virginia if there has been a change in circumstances, and depending on the issues an emergency custody filing may be appropriate.

If you find yourself involved in a custody dispute, it is best to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Livesay & Myers, P.C. has a team of experienced family lawyers across offices in Fairfax, Arlington, Leesburg, Manassas, and Fredericksburg, representing clients across Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.

See also: The Hague Convention and International Child Abduction

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Livesay & Myers, P.C. is a law firm with offices in Fairfax, Arlington, Leesburg, Manassas and Fredericksburg, Virginia.

One response to “Parental Kidnapping in Virginia”

  1. Tami Williamson says:

    I just have to get this off my chest as to how inadequte the laws seem to be on this issue..I filed for divorce last year(2011) along with a restraining order.My attorney couldnt find my “ex” husband to serve papers.My ex was an already established flight risk with my child.thats one reason I left.I had offered him supervised visitation in the divorce papers and he knew this and did not want to sign.He did not try to talk to his child for a year then on Oct 12th 2012 he took him against his will while my son was in the front yard waiting to board the school bus! I have recieved no help from local law enforcement! they are saying because we are not divorced and custody hasnt been established,there is nothing they can do and that the restraining order is no good because of lapsed time.I have no idea where my son is and my ex has refused to let me talk to him or tell me ex is continuous paranoid schizophrenic and I fear for my son! I have legal documents proving it but still no help from anyone.Attorney tried to have a temporary custody order but said they couldnt find him and by law he has to be served for that.Now, I’m having to wait for a divorce by publication to run with the custody in there.,should only be a lil while longer for a court on that..makes no since how this can take so long when a childs well being is at stake! I have been so frustrated with the court system and our laws.Can anyone help or give any advise?My son just turned 10.

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