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Legal Information: General

Parental Kidnapping

December 17, 2019

If the other parent takes my children out of state, can s/he be charged with kidnapping?

The answer to this question is very complicated and may depend on many different factors. The laws on parental kidnapping (also known as custodial interference) are different in each state. In some states, it may be against the law to take children out of state only if it violates a custody order or if there is an active custody case pending. In other states, the act of taking the children out of state itself may not be illegal unless the parent conceals (hides) the children from the other parent. Other factors that may be considered are whether the parents are married (and considered to have equal parental rights) or, in the case of unmarried parents, whether the father’s paternity has been legally established. Also, there could be a big difference if the other parent is planning a brief visit out of state or if s/he is planning on moving out of state for a long time.

We list the definition of parental kidnapping/custodial interference for most states on our Crimes page - enter your state in the drop-down menu to read the definition of the crime in your state. However, these types of laws can be hard to interpret and easy to misinterpret. We strongly suggest talking to a lawyer who specializes in custody matters and/or a prosecutor to find out if the other parent’s actions are legal or not. See our Finding a Lawyer page for information about resources in your state.