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Kidnapping » What is Considered Parental Kidnapping in Colorado?
Parental kidnapping, or custodial interference, is the crime of knowingly taking a child away from the person who has lawful custody. In most cases, it is a Class 5 felony in Colorado.
The line between parental kidnapping and a minor custody violation, though, is murky under Colorado law.
CRS 18-3-304 defines parental kidnapping in Colorado. It prohibits taking or enticing a minor child from the care of their legal guardian. To parental kidnapping, you have to know that you have no parental privilege or legal rights at the time.1
You can also commit parental kidnapping by violating a court order that grants someone else custody of a child.2
CRS 18-3-304 specifically says that it is not parental kidnapping if you believe you are protecting the child, even if it means violating a child custody order. However, that belief has to be a reasonable one. You have to convince a jury that a reasonable person would believe they were acting to protect the child.3 This forces you to back up your belief with persuasive evidence.
There are some obvious instances that constitute parental kidnapping under Colorado family law. These include:
However, some instances of parental kidnapping are less clear. Temporary and fleeting custody mishaps can happen, like:
While these seem unlikely to amount to parental kidnapping, where the line is drawn is unclear.
Based on cases that refer to CRS 18-3-304, the following factors are important:
Colorado’s law does not require the actor to be the child’s parent. While that is often the situation, it does not have to be.7 Non-parents and even people outside of the family can commit parental kidnapping.
Colorado’s laws concerning parental kidnapping apply even if the child is taken to another state.
There are certain federal laws that apply to these situations. One of them is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, or UCCJEA. The UCCJEA is a uniform act that has been adopted in 49 states, including Colorado. The only state that has not adopted UCCJEA is Massachusetts.
The UCCJEA sets exclusive and continuing jurisdiction for child custody issues in the child’s home state. Even if a child is taken in a parental kidnapping and they go to a different state, Colorado’s law will still dictate what happens.
In most cases, parental kidnapping is a Class 5 felony in Colorado. Convictions carry:
If you took the child out of the country, parental kidnapping becomes a Class 4 felony. Colorado courts may impose:
Michael Becker has over a quarter-century's worth of experience as an attorney and more than 100 trials under his belt. He is a sought-after legal commentator and is licensed to practice law in Colorado, Nevada, California, and Florida.
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