Custodial Interference in Tennessee
The dissolution of a relationship is tough. The dissolution of a relationship that involves underage kids can often be even tougher, since both partners are usually required to continue to cooperate in order to co-parent.
Custody arrangements rarely give each parent precisely what they want. This is particularly true when it is a judge who had to make the final decision and draft the formal custody order. An outside Judge cannot know the intricacies of your family life and what unique dynamics would truly work best for each family that arrives in their court room. However – one parent’s feelings that the court-ordered custody arrangement should be modified does not validate an attempt to implement or enact changes without the court’s approval. A Custody order is a court-backed guarantee of parenting time and rights of each parent. If one party withholds a child from the parent who should have physical custody rights to the child at the time then the state can bring criminal charges against them.
Tennessee can press charges of custodial interference if a party removes a child from the state in violation of a custody order, and/or harbors or hides a child inside or outside of Tennessee. A person may also be found to have committed custodial interference if they detain the child past the expiration period of a visitation.
These charges are taken seriously by the state. In fact, the same section of Tennessee law that speaks to kidnapping also applies to custodial interference charges. Kidnapping and custodial interference are different charges with different consequences. Kidnapping is a class C felony with a potential sentence of 15 years in prison, while custodial interference is charged differently, depending on the circumstances. Custodial interference might be charged as either a class A misdemeanor: this may be the case if the offender voluntarily returned the child before they are arrested. This charge carries a potential sentence of up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a $2,500 fine.
If the child was not voluntarily returned, the court may press charges of custodial interference as a class E felony with a max prison sentence of six years. While kidnapping and custodial interference charges are different, they do fall under the same section of legal code because the charges have the similarity of illegally holding/detaining someone.
Defenses to Custodial Interference
There are some defenses to charges of custodial interference. For example, if a parent believes that returning the child to the other party will endanger the child, that can be raised as a defense. However, to be successful in this defense you must be able to defend to the court why this allegation is in earnest, and not simply an excuse to violate the custody order.
Every situation is different. To ensure you understand your rights and duties under the law it is always a good idea to discuss the specifics of your case with a knowledgeable attorney.
Contact Fort, Holloway & Rogers
Custodial interference is a serious charge with the potential for serious consequences. Discussing the facts of your scenario with an experienced Franklin child custody attorney at Fort, Holloway & Rogers can benefit you by ensuring that you understand defenses that might be raised and what you can expect down the path ahead. Contact our office today.
TENNESSEE CODE UNANNOTATED CUI| PAW Document Page (lexis.com)