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Criminal Interference with Custody

Recently, the story involving a missing child named Julian Hernandez made national news. Nearly thirteen years ago he was reported missing by his mother. His father, Bobby Hernandez, was supposed to take him to preschool; instead he left the area, taking the minor child with him. It appears that Julian lived somewhat of a normal life. That all changed when Julian began his college search and found out his Social Security number did not match his name. Soon after, he found himself on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Julian’s story is not uncommon.

According to a study conducted in 2012, family abductions are the second leading cause of missing children. Family abductions come second to endangered runaways. The State of New Jersey made it a criminal offense to interfere with the custodial rights of another parent.

What Constitutes an Offense?

New Jersey’s Code of Criminal Justice makes it a criminal offense to interfere with custody. This code section applies to any parent, guardian, or other lawful custodian. A person may be charged with interfering with custody if that person:

  1. Takes or detains a minor child with the purpose of hiding the child. Any individual who takes or detains a child to deprive another parent of time with the child may be charged with this criminal interference.
  2. Takes action to evade court jurisdiction or court orders. Taking specific actions for the purpose of depriving a parent of custody or parenting time will possibly subject the individual to criminal charges if that person has been served with or was aware of an action involving marriage or custody at the time of actions.
  3. Evades other court orders. Any individual that has been served with or is aware of an action involving child protective services and subsequently takes certain actions prior to the issuance of a temporary or final order determining custody for the purpose of evading the jurisdiction of the court may be charged with criminal interference with custody.
  4. Takes, detains, entices, or conceals the minor child in violation of a custody order.

Serious Consequences

Upon conviction, any individual that engages in certain action to take, detain, entice, or conceal a child and subsequently takes the child outside of the United States for more than 24 hours commits a crime of the second degree. Second degree crimes carry a potential penalty of 5 to 10 years of imprisonment. In crimes of the second degree, it is presumed the offender will serve a period of incarceration.

If a child is located within the United States, a person commits a third degree crime upon conviction. Third degree crimes carry a potential of 3 to 5 years of imprisonment. In general, third degree crimes have a presumption of non-imprisonment for first offenses. However, New Jersey created an exception for cases involving interference with custody; the presumption does not apply.

Arrange a Consultation

If you or someone you know have been charged with interference with custody, contact Phillip J. Murphy, Attorney at Law in Bergen County, New Jersey. I am an experienced attorney that has knowledge of both family and criminal laws. For a detailed review of your case, contact us today.

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