Understanding Virginia’s parental kidnapping laws

On Behalf of | Aug 11, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

As a Virginia parent, you might think it’s impossible for you to kidnap your own child. After all, they’re your child, right?

The reality is that even if you are a parent, you can be charged and potentially convicted of a felony for kidnapping your own child. This is in addition to any other civil penalties you may face by a custody court for violating your custody order.

A custody order is required for a kidnapping charge

This assumes that you already have a custody order in place. If you do not have a custody order through a Virginia family court, you cannot be criminally charged or face contempt charges, since there is no order to violate.

However, avoiding potential kidnapping charges is not a reason to go without a custody order. It is best to work out a custody arrangement with the help of a family law attorney.

It is only when you have a custody order and take your child that you face a kidnapping charge. The penalties vary depending on where you take your child.

Virginia parental kidnapping laws

Virginia law states that a parent who kidnaps a child but keeps the child within the Commonwealth can be charged and convicted of a class 1 misdemeanor. You can face a fine of up to $2,500 and a maximum jail sentence of 1 year.

The penalty becomes much harsher for a parent who kidnaps a child and removes the child from the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is a class 6 felony, and although the maximum fine remains the same, the jail time increases to up to 5 years.

Pursuing your available options

Clearly, the possible consequences of a kidnapping charge of your own child are extremely serious. You may have valid reasons for wanting to take your child away from the other parent. They could be abusive, neglectful or have a substance abuse problem.

These are all legitimate concerns. However, you have many available options through a custody court. It may take time, and it might be difficult to wait, knowing your child is in a bad situation.

We all make spontaneous decisions fueled by emotions sometimes. If you find yourself facing a kidnapping charge, an attorney can help minimize the consequences while helping you figure out the best solution to your custody situation.