The Law on Parental Kidnapping in Pennsylvania

The Law on Parental Kidnapping in Pennsylvania

Contrary to popular belief, kidnapping isn’t only committed by strangers. In some cases, family members participate in kidnapping crimes, especially during custody battles. The United States Department of Justice reports that more than 200,000 children are victims of parental kidnappings every year.

Parental abductions are increasingly popular due to the intense nature of child custody issues. These kidnappings can have traumatic effects not only on the child but also on other family members. If you fear that the other parent may forcefully take your child, contact an expert in family law West Chester PA. He can help you file an emergency petition for physical custody

What Constitutes Parental Kidnapping?

It’s easy to imagine a kidnapping scenario as a hostage situation with the victim on gunpoint. However, the act of parental abduction may not always be violent or hostage-like. In Pennsylvania, parental kidnapping also means an interference of a child’s custody arrangement. It occurs when a parent takes or entices a minor from the care of their legal custodian.

In such abductions, the parent committing the crime has no legal privilege or the right to take the child. This crime could be as simple as picking a child from school without informing the custodial parent. It could be as severe as traveling with the child out of the state or country without a court order.

What to do When Parental Kidnapping Occurs

Some parents violate a custody order by removing their child from the state or concealing the child’s whereabouts from the other parent. If you think your co-parent kidnapped your child, you’ll need to contact law enforcement. They’ll investigate to determine if the situation did involve kidnapping.

An attorney can help you file a petition to charge the other parent with kidnapping if the child isn’t back within a timeframe. With this petition, you’re asking the court to establish that the other parent violated the custody order. You’ll also be asking the judge to punish the parent and force them to comply with the order.

Penalties for Parental Kidnapping

While family law cases are matters of the civil court, parental kidnapping issues are beyond domestic disputes. They are illegal offenses and classified as a third-degree felony. This crime carries a prison sentence up to seven years and a fine of up to $15,000.

Parental abductions that lasted 24 hours or less, and occurs within the state, may get a second-degree misdemeanor charge. This act warrants a prison sentence between one to two years and a fine up to $5,000.

Defenses to Parental Kidnapping

If you’re facing accusations for parental abduction, an excellent legal counsel may help your case. You should immediately retain an attorney that understands criminal defense and family law in West Chester, PA. There are legal defenses that may reduce your sentence or dismiss your case altogether. Some of these possible defenses include:

  • Lack of intent to harm: You may argue that you had no intention to inflict harm on the child and that the kidnap was only a misunderstanding.
  • Escape from domestic violence: A parent’s belief that the abduction was necessary to prevent the child from abuse or violence, may be a reasonable defense.
  • Consent of the kidnapped child or the other parent: If the child gave consent or the custodial parent gave permission directly or indirectly.
  • Insanity: A defense of insanity or mental condition on the part of the accused parent may also be a defense


If you’re having issues relating to parental kidnapping, take the necessary legal steps immediately. The legal counsels at Lamonaca Law Firm are experts in family law in West Chester, PA. They are dedicated to each case and can deliver the best possible outcome for you and your child.