When a couple with children divorce, the issue of child custody can create a lot of pushback. In many cases, a parent will feel as though he or she has not been granted the “right” amount of time with the children. Custodial interference or visitation interference describes the actions of one parent who tries to interfere with the other parent’s physical custody of the child, even when they have shared custody rights. Custodial interference can have varying degrees of consequences, including:
- Failing to make the children available to the co-parent for their scheduled parenting time
- Putting limits on telephone contact between the child and their other parent despite a court order
- Keeping the child beyond the scheduled date to return them to the other parent
- Outright parental kidnapping where a parent takes the children out of the state or even out of the country without the knowledge or permission of the co-parent.
Consequences for custodial interference
When the court issues a custody order, it holds the force of law. Willfully violating a custody order and interfering with a co-parent’s right to parenting time with their child can have serious consequences. The co-parent can file a motion with the court which would require them to comply with the order. The offending parent may also be held in contempt of court forcing them to appear before the judge and explain why they are interfering with the custody order.
There are also penalties for disobeying a child custody order, which can include:
- Reimbursement of the other parent’s attorney fees and court costs
- Losing time with your child, as the other parent may be allowed to “make up” for time lost
- Required supervision during visits
- Modification of the child custody order
Understanding federal and Mississippi laws regarding kidnapping
According to Mississippi law, a person is guilty of kidnapping if he or she, “without lawful authority and with or without intent to secretly confine, shall forcibly seize and confine any other person, or shall inveigle or kidnap any other person with intent to cause such person to be confined or imprisoned against his or her will, or without lawful authority shall forcibly seize, inveigle or kidnap any vulnerable person.” A person can also be found guilty of kidnapping if he or she unlawfully kidnaps or seizes by force any child who is under sixteen years of age against the will of the child’s parents or legal guardian.
There is also a federal law, the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, which was meant to deter abductions, discourage interstate conflicts and promote cooperation between states. The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act allows the court to impose abduction prevention measures as necessary.
In cases when one parent takes the child and leaves the state without the permission of the co-parent, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which now applies to all states but Massachusetts, gives the new state the authority to issue an emergency order to return the child back to their home. It is illegal under Mississippi law for a non-custodial parent or relative to remove a child age 14 or younger from the state with the intent to violate a court’s order awarding custody of the child to another.
What about child support payments during a custodial dispute?
If you find yourself in the throes of a heated custody battle, do not think that you can gain some leverage by not paying your child support obligation. Child support is a separate issue, and falling behind in child support payments will not strengthen your position when it comes to dealing with the court about your co-parent’s misdeeds with regard to withholding access to your child. Consult with one of our Southaven divorce lawyers who will advise you of your rights and make sure that you have all of the access to your child that has been outlined in the custody order.
Is your former spouse or partner making it difficult or even impossible for you to spend time with your child? We can help protect your parental rights. We invite you to contact Taylor Jones Taylor to learn more about our family law services at one of our offices in Southaven, Hernando or Olive Branch.