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Legal Information: Maryland

Parental Kidnapping

Laws current as of November 27, 2023

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

If you have evidence the other parent is planning to take your child from you in violation of your court-ordered custody or visitation rights, you can try to get back into court to bring this to the judge’s attention. Please talk to a lawyer about what type of legal motion you should file. 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.

If the other parent has taken the child away from you and won’t allow you access to the child, that parent may be guilty of a crime in certain circumstances. According to Maryland’s parental kidnapping law, a “relative of the child” may not:

  • kidnap, take, or carry away a child under the age of 16 years from the  child’s “lawful custodian;”
  • keep the child in his/her possession from more than 48 hours after you demand that the child be returned to you;
  • hide the child within the state knowing that another relative took possession of the child in violation of the law; or
  • help someone else do something that violates this law.1

The child’s “lawful custodian” is a person who is authorized to have custody and control of the child, and the “relative” who is committing these acts may include the other parent, a sibling, grandparent, aunt, or uncle.1 We strongly suggest that you 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, out of state, or to another country.2 Go to our Selected Maryland Statutes page to read more about penalties for parental kidnapping.

1 MD Code, Family Law §§ 9-304; 9-301
2 See MD Code, Family Law § 9-307