There is one thing that is for sure, relationships can be extremely difficult once a child’s parents break up or file for divorce. Naturally, one of the most difficult aspects of any breakup is dealing with child custody.
Definition of Interference with Child Custody
Since most parents love their children more than anything, they usually want what’s best for their kids. Unfortunately, when you break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend, or start the divorce process, you must follow the law in regards to custody, even if it’s not what you want.
You must abide by Texas’ child custody laws, and you must follow all orders by the court in regards to your children.
Under Sec. 25.03 of the Texas Penal Code, interference with child custody, a person commits this offense when he or she takes or retains a child under the age of 18:
- When they know that it violates the terms of a judgement, a court order, or a temporary order that addresses the child’s custody;
- When that person has not been awarded custody of the child of the court of jurisdiction, and knows that a divorce lawsuit or a civil suit has been filed regarding the child’s child custody, and takes the child out of the geographical area, or out of the county without the court’s permission;
- They take the child outside of the United States as to deprive the other parent possession and access to the child without that person’s permission; or
- The noncustodial parent persuades the child to leave the custody of the other parent.
In Texas, an offense under this section is a state jail felony, punishable by 180 days to 2 years imprisonment, and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Are there defenses to this charge?
Yes, there are. It is a defense if the parent returned the child to the geographical area of the court’s jurisdiction within three days of committing the offense. It is an affirmative defense if the taking and possession of the child was pursuant to a valid court order, which provided for possession and access to the child. Lastly, it is an affirmative defense if the actor can prove that the retention of the child was only due to circumstances beyond their control; for example, if a flight was delayed, or if their car broke down.
In the case of an unexpected delay, the actor must have provided notice or made reasonable attempts to provide notice to the other parent, letting them know of the circumstances that led to their retention of the child.