Parental Kidnapping in North Carolina: What to Do 2024

You might be considering taking legal action against your child’s other parent for breaking the terms of your child custody order. Perhaps you’re unsure if your situation even calls for judicial intervention. If so, it is important to learn about parental kidnapping in North Carolina and what your options may be.

What Is Parental Kidnapping?

Parental kidnapping occurs when either parent denies the other access to their child in an intentional violation of a legally enforceable court order. Not adhering to the approved and decreed court terms within a child custody agreement is very serious. However, if the parents lack a custody order, then there is no reasonable cause for law enforcement to interfere if one parent denies access to a child.

Applicable situations include a parent picking the child up from school at an undesignated time, taking the child from the custodial parent’s home and fleeing, or refusing to return them home after the assigned or mutually amended physical custody time. Denying a parent the legally approved visitation/access that they are entitled to is also parental kidnapping.

Parental kidnapping cases can also contain an element of domestic violence. An abusive parent may abduct a child to inflict further harm and/or to weaponize them against the other parent. Alternatively, the victimized parent may flee after removing the child from a violent home environment.

Parental Kidnapping Laws in North Carolina

Parents who defy the terms of their child custody agreement can face serious consequences if the other parent chooses to take legal action, such as parental time deductions or a rescinding of their visitation rights altogether.

In North Carolina, leaving the state with the child while in violation of the custody order is a Class 1 felony. If the child is kept outside state lines for more than 72 hours, there is a presumption of criminal intent.

What Can I Do If My Child’s Other Parent Isn’t Taking the Custody Order Seriously?

If your child’s other parent willfully disregards the terms outlined in your child custody agreement or has been slacking on the details, there is legal action that you can take. Whether you’re unsure whether your circumstances qualify as parental kidnapping or want to modify the terms of your custody order, speak with a capable family law attorney to determine your options.

Not only is it difficult to traverse these issues alone, but representing yourself in a family law case can also be risky and overwhelming, and it can also put you at a disadvantage. When your child’s safety and well-being are at stake, you’ll feel more at ease with a knowledgeable, qualified lawyer at your side.

Your family lawyer can help you in filing a Motion for Contempt or a Motion to Order to Show Cause. The filing of either motion will submit a request for a judge to order the offending parent to appear in court and hold them in contempt for violating the custody order. Upon a guilty verdict, the judge will assign penalties at their discretion, which can include paying your attorney fees, paying a fine, a verbal reprimand, or time in jail.

Furthermore, a family law attorney can help you in drafting and filing a petition for modification to the current terms of your custody order. This petition specifies the change that you would like to make to the custody agreement as well as evidence that establishes why the change is needed and reasonable.


Q: What Is Considered Parental Kidnapping in North Carolina?

A: Parental kidnapping in North Carolina occurs when a parent willfully defies the terms of a child custody order.

The unlawful collection of a child may involve the infringing parent:

  • Picking the child up from school or another location at an undesignated time
  • Fleeing after taking them from the other parent’s home
  • Refusing to return the child after the allotted visitation time

Additionally, denying a parent the legally approved visitation/access that they are entitled to is parental kidnapping.

Q: At What Age Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With in NC?

A: There’s no age requirement for when a child can choose which parent to live with in NC. Some states specify the minimum age that a child can choose, and other states do not allow any input until the child turns 18.

North Carolina has no such laws, and judges are allowed to consider the custody preferences of children who appear to have reached “the age of discretion” if they so wish. Opinions of older children are naturally regarded more thoughtfully.

Q: What Happens If a Parent Violates a Custody Order in NC?

A: If a parent violates a custody order, you can file a Motion for Contempt or a Motion for Order to Show Cause. These legal actions request that a judge hold the other parent in contempt of court.

If the judge finds that the abducting parent did indeed violate the child custody agreement, the appropriate punishment is at their discretion. Penalties may include the payment of a fine or the attorney fees of the prosecuting parent, or they may have to serve a jail sentence.

Q: What Is the U.S. Code for Parental Kidnapping?

A: There is no federal U.S. Code for national parental kidnapping violations, only federal laws regarding instances of international parental kidnapping.

There are uniform state laws proposed by the Uniform Law Commission for potential enactment. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act outlines standards for exercising jurisdiction over custody cases and the registration/enforcement of out-of-state custody orders. The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act includes child abduction risk factors and provisions for custody orders to reduce the risk.

Protect Your Family and Your Rights

The Law Offices of Aimee E. Cain is ready to handle all your family law needs, no matter how complex it or your background is. We are determined to help you during turbulent times by providing effective representation, compassionate guidance, and a streamlined process. Schedule a consultation with us today to get your questions answered and hear your available options.

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