Westlake Village Custodial Interference Attorney

When parents in California decide to divorce and they have children under age 18 they will need to create a custody and visiting agreement (also known as a parenting plan). The custody agreement will specify the time that the children will spend with each parent and how decisions will be made regarding the welfare of the children. After the agreement is signed by the judge and filed with the court it becomes law and is legally enforceable by either parent.

At Law Offices of Stephanie L. Mahdavi, we understand the frustration of having to deal with an uncooperative parent. Our Westlake Village custodial interference attorneys help our clients work through issues that arise when one parent is not following the custody agreement.

What is Custodial Interference?

Custodial interference is anything that one parent does that goes against the terms of the parenting plan. Violations might be mildly irritating like not paying for the violin lessons or picking the kids up late. Or the interference might be more serious like not returning the kids until several days later or taking them unexpectedly and without permission. If one parent continually disparages the other parent in front of the children those actions could rise to the level of custodial interference under the law.

Is Custodial Interference a Crime?

When one parent intentionally keeps children from the other parent – despite the other parent’s legal right to custody or visitation – it is a violation of criminal law in California.

The law says that a parent’s actions will rise to the level of a ‘child abduction’ if the parent ‘takes, entices away, keeps, withholds, or conceals a child and maliciously deprives’ the other parent of the right to custody or visitation. The crime can be charged as a misdemeanor and punished by

  • time in a county jail not to exceed 1 year
  • a fine of up to $1,000
  • both a fine and time in jail

Or it can be charged as a felony and punished by

  • imprisonment for 16 months, or 2 or 3 years
  • a fine of up to $10,000
  • both a fine and imprisonment

In some cases when a parent takes a child, it may become a full-fledged kidnapping. An abduction becomes a kidnapping when a parent uses force or instills fear in a child and physically removes them from their local area. Kidnapping carries a penalty of up to 11 years in prison if a child is under age 14.

What if Custodial Interference is Necessary to Protect a Child?

If the person taking the child has a good faith and reasonable belief that the child is in danger of ‘immediate bodily injury or emotional harm’ then the taking may not be a criminal act – as long as the person taking the child does all of the following.

  • notifies the district attorney in the county where the child lived within a reasonable time (10 days is reasonable)
  • starts a custody proceeding within a reasonable time (30 days is reasonable)
  • keeps the district attorney updated with address and phone number changes for the child

How to Respond to Custodial Interference

As a practical matter, you can always try to resolve the situation directly with the person doing the interfering. If that doesn’t work or is not possible then the California Courts recommended you try these options.

  • Contact police – your custody and visitation order creates enforceable law
  • Contact the district attorney in your county (Child Abduction and Recovery Unit)
  • File a court action to enforce the parenting plan against the interfering parent

Dealing with an ex-spouse who is not cooperating with the custody and visitation agreement makes an already difficult situation worse. Unfortunately, some manner of custodial interference is very common and can be quite damaging to children who are often the ones that get hurt the most.

The Westlake Village custodial interference lawyers at the Law Offices of Stephanie L. Mahdavi know that the more parents can cooperate when it comes to raising their children, the better off the children will be. We focus on finding practical solutions that work for parents and help support kids. Contact us here for a free consultation to discuss your case or call our office at 805-379-4550.

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