Legal Information: California

Parental Kidnapping

September 12, 2023

If I take my children to live out of state or hide them from the other parent, can I be charged with parental kidnapping?

It may depend on many factors such as:

  1. whether or not you have a custody order and what the order says about this issue;
  2. how long the child is gone;
  3. which county you are in;
  4. whether or not you the child is in danger of immediate harm; and
  5. how strictly parental kidnapping laws are enforced and interpreted in your county.

You can read about the crime of parental kidnapping (custodial interference) in California on our Selected California Statutes page. However, if the parent who takes his/her child has a good faith belief that the child, if left with the other parent, will suffer immediate bodily injury or emotional harm,1 that parent can file what is commonly known as a “good faith report” with the district attorney’s office, which may have an effect on whether or not the parent is prosecuted. You can read the exact requirements of what needs to be in the good faith report, the time frame within which it needs to be filed after leaving, and the next steps that the parent needs to take on our Selected California Statutes page.

We strongly suggest that you contact a lawyer who specializes in custody mattes who can evaluate your situation and advise you on whether or not you are at risk of committing the crime of parental kidnapping. Go to CA Finding a Lawyer for contact information.

1 CA Penal Code § 278.7

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