Melanson Law Office P.C. March 16, 2022

If you’re facing a charge of custodial interference—or parental kidnapping—you might be feeling overwhelmed. Parental kidnapping in New York refers to one person’s interfering with the custodial rights of another person, generally a noncustodial spouse taking a child from the custodial parent without the right to do so. For example, Spouse A gets custody of his or her child by court order only from Friday to Sunday night, but instead drives off for a weeklong vacation with the child without obtaining permission from custodial Spouse B. This act would fall under the laws of custodial interference, which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.

Contact me immediately at the Melanson Law Office P.C. if you’re facing a charge of custodial interference in or around Kingston, New York, or in neighboring Hudson, Poughkeepsie, Catskill, or New Paltz. I have over two decades of experience as both a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney, and my knowledge of how prosecutors pursue their cases allows me to anticipate most of their moves and counter them aggressively. With me on your side, we can mount a strong defense and strive for the best possible outcome together.

Custodial Interference Laws in New York

New York has two statutes on the books regarding what is often called parental kidnapping in popular parlance. One is custodial interference in the second degree, and the other is custodial interference in the first degree.

Custodial interference in the second degree, which is a misdemeanor offense, has two prongs to it—one concerning children and the other concerning incompetent persons.

One section of the law concerns children under the age of 16 and describes the crime as occurring when any relative “takes or entices” a child from their lawful custodial parent with the knowledge that there is no legal right to do so and holds (or intends to hold) that child either permanently or for a protracted period.

Another section of the law specifies no age limit, but defines the crime—again with the knowledge of having no legal right to do so—as taking or enticing “from lawful custody any incompetent person or other person entrusted by authority of law to the custody of another person or institution.”

Custodial interference in the first degree involves removing a person from the state with the intention of permanent relocation, or entails exposing the person to the risk that “his [or her] safety will be endangered or his [or her] health materially impaired.” The felony charge may apply if the child is physically exposed to danger or harmed while the custodial interference is taking place, or suffers mentally or psychologically from the experience. 

Penalties for Custodial Interference

Custodial interference in the second degree, a Class A misdemeanor, is punishable by up to one year in jail, or probation of up to three years. The court may also issue an order of protection stipulating that you either have no further contact with the individual or you do not commit any further crimes against the individual.

Custodial interference in the first degree, a Class E non-violent felony, may be punishable by one-and-third years to four years in prison, a jail term of one year or less, a split sentence between jail and probation, or simply probation. An order of protection may also be issued to prevent future contact with the person.

Possible Defenses to Custodial Interference

If you are charged with second-degree interference, the act must have the intention of either permanent interference or interference for a protracted period. If you ran into car difficulties or another emergency and couldn’t take the child back on time, that would be a reasonable defense.

The statute itself also carves out explicit exceptions, stating that an “affirmative defense” would be if your victim (the child) had been abandoned, or that “the taking was necessary in an emergency to protect the victim because he [or she] has been subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.”

Experienced Guidance You Can Trust

With my experience on both sides of the courtroom, I have the knowledge, skills, and background to help you launch a strong defense. The earlier I can get started on your case, the better. If you’re yet to be charged, I can present your side of the story to the prosecutors in hopes of getting the charge lessened or even dropped altogether.

If you’re facing an investigation for custodial interference in New York, or have been charged, get in touch with me immediately at the Melanson Law Office P.C. I proudly serve clients in and around Kingston, including Saugerties, Highland, Hudson, Catskill, New Paltz, Poughkeepsie, and the entire Hudson Valley.