Legal Information: Maryland

Parental Kidnapping

November 27, 2023

If I think that the other parent may abduct my child, is there anything I can do?

If you think the other parent may take your child out of state or somewhere else in the state in violation of your rights to custody or visitation under a court order, you can file a petition for contempt of court and demand the return of the child. If you do not have a custody order, you may want to go to court to file for temporary emergency custody – if the judge thinks that the child is in danger, you may be able to get an immediate custody order.

You may also want to contact the police. If the other parent has purposefully abducted a child from the lawful (legal) custodian, that parent may be guilty of a crime. According to Maryland’s parental kidnapping law, a person may not abduct, take, or carry away a child under the age of 16 years from the custody and control of the child’s “lawful custodian.”1 We strongly suggest that you try to consult with a lawyer to figure out if the other parent’s actions would be considered a violation of this law. Go to our MD Finding a Lawyer page for legal resources.

The penalties for parental kidnapping are different based on how long the child is kept away and whether the child is moved within the state or out of state or country. Go to our Selected Maryland Statutes page to read more about penalties for parental kidnapping.

1 MD Code, Family Law § 9-304
2 MD Code, Family Law § 9-307

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