Parental Kidnapping Laws of California Explained

 The act of taking another person against their will is what is commonly known as kidnapping. Parental child abduction is a California felony that happens when a family member, generally a parent, kidnaps and hides a child for an extended period. When parents separate or begin divorce proceedings in California, parental child abduction is common. It is important to note that Parental child kidnapping is a serious crime.

Child abduction violates another person’s right to physical custody or visitation of a child under California Penal Code 278. In addition, taking, luring away, retaining, withholding, or concealing the kid may be a violation. The word “child abduction” relates to parental abductions, not stranger abductions.

The law is primarily concerned with the rights of the abandoned parent instead of ownership of the abducting parent. If the parent left behind has a right to joint custody or visitation, the state may consider child abduction if the other parent violates that right. A natural parent has an automatic right to physical custody of their kid under California law.

Penal Code 278.5, the legislation against the deprivation of custody in California, bans interfere with a parent’s right to custody and a parent’s right to visitation.

Many parents do not get along, as is the case in many circumstances involving custody issues. Some parents may attempt to vent their frustrations or seek vengeance on the other parent through their children when this occurs. One technique to accomplish this is to obstruct or hinder the other parent’s time with the children.

Protective Hiding

If you have a legal right to the child’s physical custody, you can keep a child for an extended amount of time if it’s necessary to keep the youngster safe. However, it would be best if you also took the following actions needed by law.

  • You must file a “Good Cause” report with the office of the district attorney as soon as reasonably practical. If you wait more than ten days, the state could charge you with kidnapping. Forms for filing a “Good Cause” report are available at
  • You’ll also need to get a court order giving you custody. You should submit your request to the court as soon as possible. If you delay more than 30 days, the state could charge you with kidnapping.

If you do not have legal custody of the child, you should report the danger to law enforcement or a child protective agency as soon as possible. You may not keep the child for any longer than is necessary to contact police enforcement or a child protective agency.

Child Kidnapping is a severe crime, and everyone should take it seriously. Separated parents should always seek professional legal help when it comes to the whereabouts of their children or in the case of custodial battles.

Suspicion of a Possible Kidnapping

If you’re in a custody battle, it’s a good idea to give the judge as much proof as possible to back up your suspicions that the other parent is planning to kidnap the child. The judge considers the following factors to assess whether or not there is a risk of abduction:

  • Has previously threatened to take the child in violation of your custody or visitation rights
  • Have no strong ties or roots to California 
  • Has strong ties to another state, region, or country. This includes foreign citizenry.
  • Has no financial basis to stay in this state. This includes whether the party is educated or not.
  • Has a criminal record; has a history of parental disobedience, child abuse, or domestic violence; and has a criminal record.

Preventive Measures

If a judge suspects that a child is in danger of being kidnaped, the following are some of the steps they could take to try to prevent the kidnapping:

  • Requiring supervised visitation
  • Requiring a parent to post a bond
  • Limiting the right of the parent who has custody of the child also known as the custodial parent, to move the child unless they give notice to and obtain a written agreement from the parent who lacks custody of the child (non-custodial parent). Moving the child is not possible without the approval of the co-parent.
  • Limiting the custodial or non-custodial parent’s ability to remove the kid from the county, state, or nation.
  • Requiring surrendering of passports and other travel documents, barring a parent from filing a new or replacement passport for their child.
  • Seeking guarantees that a party will return from international visits by asking the traveling parent to provide any of the following to the court or the other parent or guardian:
  1. The child’s travel schedule
  2. Copies of round-trip airline tickets
  3. A list of all the locations and phone numbers where the required parties can reach the child at all times
  4. An open airplane ticket for the left parent if the child does not return.

A judge in California can only award an ex parte temporary custody order if there is proof of urgent danger to the kid such as domestic violence or sexual abuse or immediate risk that the child will be taken out of state by the other parent.

Simple Kidnapping vs. Aggravated Kidnapping

While both types of abduction have the same essential elements, aggravated kidnapping requires proof that the defendant kidnaped someone to conduct another crime other than the kidnapping itself. In this case, an individual might abduct another person to commit robbery, extortion, or rape. The prosecutor must prove that the offender meant to save the underlying offense while transferring the victim to establish aggravated kidnapping. Under California law, aggravated kidnapping could result in a harsher penalty.

Get Help Today

Every year, a huge number of kids are reported missing in California. There should never be a time when a child separates from their parent. Luckily, there are professional advocacy groups that provide left-behind parents with access to resources to assist them in locating their children. These professionals’ objectives are to help the parent who has been left behind by providing them with the assistance they need while also protecting their rights.