Every crime in California is defined by a specific code section. Our attorneys explain the law, penalties and best defense strategies for every major crime in California.
Parental Child Abduction » Four Things to Know About California Parental Child Abduction
The California crime of parental child abduction occurs when a family member, usually a parent, kidnaps and conceals a child for any length of time. It is a serious crime. Parental child abduction in California often occurs when the parents separate or begin divorce proceedings.
Under California Penal Code 278, child abduction basically means violating another person’s right to physical custody or visitation of a child. A violation may result from taking, enticing away, keeping, withholding, or concealing the child. The term “child abduction” refers to parental-type abductions, not to kidnapping by a stranger.
The law focuses mainly on the rights of the left-behind parent, not the rights of the abducting parent. If the left-behind parent has a right to joint custody or to visitation, then it may be child abduction for another parent to violate that right. A natural parent as defined by California law automatically has a right to physical custody of his or her child.
If you have a legal right to physical custody, you may withhold a child for a longer period of time, if necessary to protect the child. But you must also follow these steps required by law—
If you do not have a legal right to physical custody of the child, you should immediately contact law enforcement or a child protective agency to report the danger. You may not withhold the child any longer than necessary to contact law enforcement or a child protective agency.
If you have been accused of child abduction, you will competent and experienced legal defense. Contact our office to discuss the details of your case. Also refer to our article, “Interfering with a parent’s visitation rights under California law.“
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.