When parents share custody of a child under a court order or by law, a Nevada statute makes it a criminal offense for either parent to detain, conceal, or remove a child without written permission of the other parent. Parental kidnapping or abduction under these provisions is a very serious charge with consequences beyond the criminal penalties. All custodial parents must be aware of the law and know what to do if the other parent kidnaps or abducts a child.
NRS 200.359 governs the criminal offense parental kidnapping and abduction — also sometimes referred to as custodial interference. The complex statutory provisions prohibit many types of conduct by a parent that interfere with the custodial rights of the other parent. Conduct of the mother or father of a child can violate the provisions of the law.
Specifically, a parent may not detain, conceal, or remove a child from another parent, guardian, or other person who has lawful custody or visitation rights. Lawful custody may exist under a court order, or it may exist by operation of law: If there is no court order, NRS 125C.0015 provides that parents have joint custody of a child.
In addition, if a court order, judgment, or decree contains custody or visitation terms, a violation may also occur if a parent removes a child from the jurisdiction of the court without consent of either the court or all persons with custody or visitation rights.
Violation of the statute constitutes a category D felony in Nevada. The potential criminal penalties include one to four years in jail as well as fines.
The statute provides two limited exceptions. The law does not apply to “a person who
detains, conceals, removes, or relocates with a child to protect the child from the imminent danger of abuse or neglect” or to protect themselves from imminent physical harm. This exception applies if the person reports the action to a law enforcement agency or child welfare services within 24 hours, or as soon as circumstances allow. The second exception occurs if a person can demonstrate a “compelling excuse, to the satisfaction of the court” for relocating with a child under the Nevada Parental Rights Protection Act.
Whether specific conduct constitutes a violation of the law is a legal question that can only ultimately be determined by a court. If you are a parent contemplating action that may involve a violation, or you suspect the other parent violated the law, you should talk with an experienced family law attorney to determine what options you have in the circumstances.
Having legal custody and visitation rights does not entitle a parent to kidnap or abduct their own child when they are custody disputes, disagreements over a child, or other types of arguments. Under Nevada law, many types of conduct can constitute kidnapping or abduction by a parent under Nevada law.
For married parents living in a family home, taking a child out of the home without the other parent’s consent, such as when separating or after an argument, may violate the statute unless it qualifies as an exception. For parents not living together, violating the rights of a parent for custody or visitation under the terms of a court order may constitute a violation (and also may result in contempt-of-court charges). That may include refusing to return a child on schedule, declining to allow court-ordered visitation, or taking a child out of state without permission of the court or other parent.
If you think the other parent has kidnapped or abducted your child, you should immediately contact a knowledgeable family law attorney. In the absence of special circumstances, law enforcement officers usually do not become involved unless there is a pickup order from the court, which requires filing a Motion for Return of the Child.
Depending on the situation, your lawyer may recommend asking the court for other relief, in addition to the pickup order. In some cases, a motion for temporary custody or for a restraining order may be appropriate.
Longer term, conduct that constitutes kidnapping or abduction may warrant a request for modification of a custody order or a request for supervised visitation. A parent who kidnaps of abducts a child faces more consequences than just the criminal penalties resulting from the conduct. Actions that violate the statute become a factor in court determinations relating to the best interests of a child in a custody matter and can affect many terms of custody and visitation.
At The Gersten Law Firm, we assist clients with all matters relating to child custody, including issues relating to possible parental kidnapping or abduction of a child. Experienced family law attorney Joseph Gersten understands the sensitivity and emotional aspects of child custody for parents. He approaches every family law case with compassion and understanding, as well as dedication to protecting the interests and rights of the client. He also handles criminal law matters, which is a significant benefit for clients if issues concerning parental kidnapping charges arise.
The Gersten Law Firm does not charge for your initial consultation. We serve clients in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County. Call us at 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.