Criminal Interference with Child Custody in New Jersey

NJ Custody Laws and Interference

Under the New Jersey statute for Interference with Custody, if the child is “taken, detained, enticed or concealed” from the other parent for more than 24 hours, the penalty is incarceration and payment of the other parent’s attorney’s fees as well as other expenses and costs in recovering the child. NJS 2C:13-4. This statute comes into play when a parent conceals the child from the other parent during that parent’s custodial or parenting time; if someone is served with papers or knows of a proceeding that will impact marriage or custody and thereafter conceals the child from the other parent or the court; conceals the child anywhere when knowing about protective services action involving the child or, after a temporary or final order concerning custody, the minor child is concealed from the other parent.

There is no statute of limitations for interference with custody under this New Jersey statute. Therefore, a parent cannot simply conceal the child for a period of time and walk away because a statute of limitations has run. The crime is ongoing for all time that the child is concealed.

Depending on the details of the taking and concealing of the child, this may become a matter that brings on federal charges against the taking parent. If a child under 16 is taken outside of the US without permission of the custodial parent, the result may be a criminal arrest warrant under the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA). If state felony criminal charges are filed and the abducting parent flees across state or international lines and the state requests the aid of the FBI, an arrest warrant will issue for the abduction as Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP).

When the child taken is 12 or younger and the FBI is contacted by local law enforcement, the FBI opens a kidnapping investigation offering local law enforcement assistance, including but not limited to use of the FBI laboratory services. This action does not require any interstate or international travel with the child.

Defenses to Criminal Interference Under NJ Custody Laws

Defenses to New Jersey’s charges for interference with custody include the concealing parent’s reasonably believing that taking the child was necessary for the child’s welfare and, within 24 hours of taking the child, contacts the police, prosecutor’s office or Division of Youth and Family Services where the child had resided and advises them of the child’s whereabouts. Taking and concealing the child for their safety is, alone, not enough to use as a defense.

If the parent taking the child has the right to custody and was fleeing from imminent physical danger from the other parent, this is a defense to interference if and only if, as soon as possible after the taking, gives notice as set forth immediately above, or commences an action affecting custody in an appropriate court.

When the party taking the child reasonably believed that they had the consent of the other parent or an authorized agency, this can be used as a defense.

Taking and concealing a child is serious offense to both New Jersey and the FBI. Acting in a fashion that violates these laws puts a parent at strong risk of incarceration, not even mentioning the risk of harm to the child. Certainly, when a child is taken across state lines or international borders, the problem escalates as do the penalties faced under New Jersey and federal law.

If you have questions concerning NJ custody laws, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen for a free consultation at 201-845-7400.

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