Contrary to the popular belief that kidnapping is often committed by complete strangers, the truth is that the United States Department of Justice reports that as many as 200,000 children are victims of family abduction each year. Family abduction is a crime that can have profound traumatic effects not only on the child victims, but also many other family members.
In many cases, a child is taken out of state or even out of country by a noncustodial parent (the parent without legal custody of the child). Numerous state and federal agencies can assist in locating children who are often kidnapped as the result of some kind of custody dispute.
Attorney for Parental Kidnapping in West Chester, PA
If your child has been removed from southeastern Pennsylvania by the other parent or you have been accused of parental kidnapping, it is in your best interest to retain legal counsel as soon as possible. Ciccarelli Law Offices represents clients enforcing orders in communities all over Chester County, Montgomery County, Lancaster County, Delaware County, and the greater Philadelphia area.
Our West Chester divorce lawyers will take all of the necessary steps to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your child. Call (610) 692-8700 or send an online message for a free consultation so we can act as soon as possible. We are based in West Chester PA and serve clients throughout Chester County, Lancaster County and suburban Philadelphia including West Chester, Kennett Square, Oxford, Avondale, Landenberg, West Grove, Paoli, Malvern, Downingtown, Coatesville, Exton, Parkesburg, Berwyn and Devon. We have convenient meeting locations in Lancaster, Philadelphia, Plymouth Meeting, Kennett Square, Malvern, Springfield, King of Prussia, and Radnor. Our family lawyers serve those with immediate legal needs in Chester County, Montgomery County, Delaware County and Lancaster County.
Pennsylvania Parental Kidnapping Information Center
- What are the consequences of committing parental kidnapping?
- What can I do to prevent parental kidnapping?
- Where can I learn more about parental kidnapping in West Chester?
Chester County Parental Kidnapping Penalties
The type of penalty that will be handed down for a kidnapping offense will depend on the type of offense that the individual committed.
- Kidnapping of a Minor — If a person unlawfully removes an individual under 18 years of age a substantial distance under the circumstances from the place where he or she is found, or if a person unlawfully confines an individual under 18 years of age for a substantial period in a place of isolation, with the intention to hold for ransom or reward, or as a shield or hostage, to facilitate commission of any felony or flight thereafter, to inflict bodily injury on or to terrorize the victim or another, or to interfere with the performance by public officials of any governmental or political function, the crime is kidnapping of a minor under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 2901(a.1), a first-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000;
- Unlawful Restraint of a Minor — If the victim is a person under 18 years of age, and a parent of the victim knowingly restrains another unlawfully in circumstances exposing him or her to risk of serious bodily injury or holds another in a condition of involuntary servitude, the parent commits unlawful restraint of a minor under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 2902(c), a second-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000; or
- False Imprisonment of a Minor — If the victim is a person under 18 years of age, and a parent of the victim knowingly restrains another unlawfully so as to interfere substantially with his liberty, the parent commits false imprisonment of a minor under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 2903(c), a second-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 2904 also establishes that a person commits the offense of interference with custody of children if he or she knowingly or recklessly takes or entices any child under the age of 18 years from the custody of its parent, guardian or other lawful custodian, when he has no privilege to do so. Interference with custody of children is generally a third-degree felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, but the crime can become a second-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 if the alleged offender, not being a parent or person in equivalent relation to the child, acted with knowledge that his or her conduct would cause serious alarm for the safety of the child, or in reckless disregard of a likelihood of causing such alarm.
Interference with custody of children is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 if the alleged offender acted with good cause for a period of time not in excess of 24 hours and:
- the victim child is the subject of a valid order of custody issued by a court of this Commonwealth;
- the alleged offender has been given either partial custody or visitation rights under said order; and
- the alleged offender is a resident of this Commonwealth and does not remove the child from the Commonwealth.
Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act in West Chester
Governor Tom Corbett signed the Uniform Child Abduction and Prevention Act (UCAPA) into law on January 22, 2014. The UCAPA provides guidelines for courts to follow during custody disputes when attempting to identify families that are at risk for child abduction.
Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 5204, a court on its own motion can order abduction prevention measures in a child custody proceeding if the court finds that the evidence establishes a credible risk of abduction of the child.
The same statute also allows a party to a child custody determination or another individual or entity having a right under the laws of this Commonwealth or any other state to seek a child custody determination for the child to file a petition seeking abduction prevention measures to protect the child, and prosecutors or public authorities designated under Section 5455 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes can seek a warrant to take physical custody of a child under Section 5209 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes or other appropriate prevention measures.
Petitions must be filed only in courts that have jurisdiction to make child custody determinations with respect to the child at issue under Chapter 54 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. A court of the Commonwealth has temporary emergency jurisdiction under if it finds a credible risk of abduction.
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 5206 specifies that a petition under must be verified and include a copy of any existing child custody determination, if available. The petition must specify the risk factors for abduction, including the relevant factors described under Section 5207 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.
In determining whether there is a credible risk of abduction of a child, Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 5207 states that a court will consider any evidence that the petitioner or respondent:
- has previously abducted or attempted to abduct the child;
- has threatened to abduct the child;
- has recently engaged in activities that may indicate a planned abduction, including: abandoning employment; selling a primary residence; terminating a lease; closing bank or other financial management accounts, liquidating assets, hiding or destroying financial documents or conducting any unusual financial activities; applying for a passport or visa or obtaining travel documents for the respondent, a family member or the child; or seeking to obtain the child’s birth certificate or school or medical records;
- has engaged in domestic violence, stalking or child abuse or neglect;
- has refused to follow a child custody determination;
- lacks strong familial, financial, emotional or cultural ties to this Commonwealth or the United States;
- has strong familial, financial, emotional or cultural ties to another state or country;
- is likely to take the child to a country that:
- is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and does not provide for the extradition of an abducting parent or for the return of an abducted child;
- is a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction but:
- the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is not in force between the United States and that country;
- according to the most recent compliance report issued by the United States Department of State, is noncompliant; or
- lacks legal mechanisms for immediately and effectively enforcing a return order under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction;
- poses a risk that the child’s physical or emotional health or safety would be endangered in the country because of specific circumstances relating to the child or because of human rights violations committed against children;
- has laws or practices that would:
- enable the respondent, without due cause, to prevent the petitioner from contacting the child;
- restrict the petitioner from freely traveling to or exiting from the country because of the petitioner’s gender, nationality, marital status or religion;
- restrict the child’s ability legally to leave the country after the child reaches the age of majority because of a child’s gender, nationality or religion;
- is included by the United States Department of State on a current list of state sponsors of terrorism;
- does not have an official United States diplomatic presence in the country;
- is engaged in active military action or war, including a civil war, to which the child may be exposed;
- is undergoing a change in immigration or citizenship status that would adversely affect the respondent’s ability to remain in the United States legally;
- has had an application for United States citizenship denied;
- has forged or presented misleading or false evidence on government forms or supporting documents to obtain or attempt to obtain a passport, a visa, travel documents, a Social Security card, a driver’s license or other government-issued identification card or has made a misrepresentation to the United States Government;
- has used multiple names to attempt to mislead or defraud; or
- has engaged in any other conduct the court considers relevant to the risk of abduction.
Parental Kidnapping Resources in Pennsylvania
Chapter 29 Kidnapping | Title 18 | PA General Assembly — View the full text of all state laws relating to kidnapping offenses. You can learn more about unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, and interference with custody of children. This chapter also covers missing children, concealment of whereabouts of a child, and luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure.
Child Abduction Prevention | Uniform Law Commission (ULC) — The ULC is a non-profit unincorporated association, comprised of state commissions on uniform laws from each state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Visit this section of the ULC website to learn more about the UCAPA, including a legislative fact sheet, an act summary, and why states should adopt UCAPA. You can also view a national map of UCAPA enactment statuses.
Ciccarelli Law Offices | West Chester Parental Kidnapping Lawyer
Was you child kidnapped by a noncustodial parent or were you arrested for alleged parental kidnapping in southeastern Pennsylvania? You will want immediately contact Ciccarelli Law Offices.
Our family law attorneys in West Chester have office locations in Philadelphia, King of Prussia, Lancaster, Kennett Square, Radnor, Plymouth Square, Springfield, and Malvern.
You can have our lawyers review your case and discuss all of your legal options as soon as you call (610) 692-8700 or submit an online contact form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.