There is no question that marital separation or divorce can be frustrating, emotion-driven, and full of angst. Unfortunately, when one parent decides to use separation from a child as a means to get back at the other spouse or partner, it’s crossing a serious line, and in the state of Georgia, that line translates into a serious felony charge. Parental Kidnapping Laws
Parental Rights are Rooted in Custody
Like most states, the authority and right to move and transport one’s child is rooted in parental custody. For most folks, this is automatic when a child is born and the parents are legally declared on the birth certificate. However, when a court proceeding such as a custody hearing occurs, or child protection steps in, what was assumed to be automatic for a parent suddenly can change. Technically, the state of Georgia can step in at any time and exert its authority as the government over a child. And that becomes very apparent during custody proceedings when the court system makes determinations on custodial rights, as well as levels of custody. So, when a parent decides to take matters into his or her own hands with child abduction, that parent is then running in conflict with the state itself.
The State Definition of Parental Kidnapping
The most applicable law on the books is George Code Section 16-5-40 which defines kidnapping in the state as an interference with the custody of a person, adult, or child. With the adult, of course, they are usually in the custody of themselves, so the kidnapping is then defined as restricting their freedom and or forcing that person to another location against their will. With a child, interestingly, the law focuses on the violation of the custody rights of the left-behind parent more so than the freedom of the minor involved. The law also gets into the nuances of permission, specifically noting the lack of authorization from one parent to the other when the transport of a child occurs. And then, like other states, there is the reference to the interference of custody and extended periods of holding a child beyond what is a reasonable temporary separation period for a parent.
Complications with Real Life- Parental Kidnapping Laws
The law can seem unattached to the realities of a given case situation, especially when there are additional factors involved. In many instances, the child may not want to be with the custodial parent and insists instead on wanting to be with the non-custodial parent. Unfortunately, the child doesn’t get a say in the matter. The law looks at what the parents themselves were authorized to do, and if there is a violation of that set of parameters, a kidnapping charge under the state code could be applied. Again, the focus is on the action of a parent isolating the child from the other parent without permission or authority, as well as efforts to avoid recovery and detection. That combination generally tends to seal the ink on a kidnapping charge and related prosecution.
Serious Punishments are Possible- Parental Kidnapping Laws
Like other states, the penalties for kidnapping, in general, are significant, and when involving a child they become even more severe. An abducting parent convicted of a kidnapping charge could be facing a practical life sentence with several years involved per sentencing rules. Already, with a general kidnapping conviction, the charged parent could face up to at least 20 years or 25 with a minor involved as well as being on probation for perpetuity. If any kind of violence was involved that caused physical harm or the kidnapping happened for a ransom, the penalty could be elevated to life in prison without parole. In short, any parent even thinking about a parental child abduction should think twice. He or she won’t get a break from the court simply because the kidnapped victim was their child.
Additional Resources for Parent Victims in Georgia- Parental Kidnapping Laws
Parents who are in a left-behind situation, looking to recover a missing child in Georgia, are not alone. While the most immediate activity will involve the police and law enforcement efforts to find and locate the child, the police are also primarily focused on the commission of a crime and finding sufficient evidence to file charges. That can seem cruel or discompassionate to a parent suffering a loss, which is why our organization exists. The Committee for Missing Children works tirelessly with parents, law enforcement, and volunteers in multiple states to find children abducted and return them to their families safe and unharmed. Every year, children are taken by their parents, but every year missing kids are also recovered and returned as well. A police report and an empty home are not the last chapters by any means.