Grimm’s Fairy Tales were, in their original 1812 compilation by the two brothers, rather, well, grim. A significant portion of the stories, says History.com1, entailed outright child abuse and wicked mothers. Originally told, Hansel and Gretel’s mother talks the father into abandoning the kids. Snow White’s mother, not a stepmother, was jealous enough in the original telling to banish the hapless beauty. These prototypical evil mothers brings to mind a rather grim issue some 200 years on: can mothers be so genuinely bad as to kidnap their own children? As child custody lawyers, we can tell you that the answer is yes.
What is Considered Child Abduction?
Under Virginia Code, § 18.2-47 (C), the terms “abjuction” and “kidnapping” are synonymous. At the very least, a parent found guilty of abduction faces punishment for a Class 5 Felony:
- One to 10 years in jail
- $2,500 in fines
So, according to Virginia law, what exactly is abduction or kidnapping? We have trod this ground before in these pages, focusing mostly on Virginia Dads who may be thinking of refusing to relinquish their children after parenting time. A Virginia mother may fit the legal profile:
Any person who, by force, intimidation or deception, and without legal justification or excuse, seizes, takes, transports, detains or secretes another person with the intent to deprive such other person of his personal liberty or to withhold or conceal him from any person, authority or institution lawfully entitled to his charge, shall be deemed guilty of “abduction.”
If you are the custodial parent, for example, and she refuses to relinquish your child after parenting time, she can be charged with abduction. If she tries to take your darling daughter out of state against the directives of a court order, she can be charged with abduction.
If all she does is slam the door in your face when you come by to pick up your son, keeping him inside with her, she can be charged with abduction. If she claims he is not at her home when you know he is supposed to be (as in, she’s got him locked in the basement), she can be charged with abduction.
Fairy Tales v. Court Orders
Your children’s mother may have heard all sorts of internet fairy tales about her rights to her children, as if they supersede Virginia, federal, or international law. Sure, she can adopt the mantel of some superhero movie mom, defying authority and common sense because she just knows she is right. But she’s wrong. She cannot legally defy court orders, a judge’s decree, or federal and international laws against kidnapping.
If you find yourself on the other side of a slammed door, for example, and she’s inside raving about what a bad parent you are, that she is only trying to protect her child and she and your child are flying to Canada to escape you, you can try reasoning with her with some basic legal facts. These may wake her up to reality:
- Under § 18.2-47 (D), her action that is normally a Class 1 misdemeanor rises to contempt of court AND a Class 6 felony;
- Contempt of Court as a separate charge apart from the Class 6 felony charge brings a fine of $250 and 10 days in jail;
- Under federal law, kidnapping rises to a federal crime if it involves international parental kidnapping (that threat to hightail it to Canada, for example)
- Under international laws, parental kidnapping can bring down not only the weight of the U.S. Justice Department, but foreign governments, as well
It’s Grim, but Should You Call the Police?
When you as the parent with court-ordered visitation rights have those rights infringed, you face grim choices. Do you turn in the mother of your children, pressing legal charges of abduction or kidnapping? Or do you retreat, to defuse the situation, even if you are robbed of parenting time?
Involving the police immediately is not always the wisest move. If your child is in imminent physical danger, by all means call 911. If your ex-wife or children’s mother is being difficult without being violent, consider a legal recourse through your divorce or child custody lawyer.
Keep detailed records. Note any witnesses to every instance of her refusing to permit your visit, withholding the children, or making false claims about their whereabouts (hiding them).
Have charges of abduction brought through your attorney. Avoid putting yourself in a legally indefensible position. Under no circumstances should you answer her threats with your own threats of violence or abduction. You want your children calm and secure, even if they cannot be with you when they are supposed to be.
Real life is no fairy tale. Some aspects of divorce and separation are grimmer than others. For all your serious law questions, you need a serious law firm. The Firm For Men awaits your call at 757-383-9184, or you may contact us online. We are here to help.