Parental kidnappings occur when one parent takes a child without the consent of another parent, but it’s a little more complicated than that. In South Carolina, there are specific laws regarding what constitutes parental kidnapping, and it also depends on your custody order and visitation rights. If you want to learn more about parental kidnappings in South Carolina and what you can do to protect your children, here’s what you need to know.
South Carolina Parental Kidnapping Laws
In South Carolina, parental kidnapping is described in SC Code § 16-17-495 (2012):
“(A)(1) When a court of competent jurisdiction in this State or another state has awarded custody of a child under the age of sixteen years or when custody of a child under the age of sixteen years is established pursuant to Section 63-17-20(B), it is unlawful for a person with the intent to violate the court order or Section 63-17-20(B) to take or transport, or cause to be taken or transported, the child from the legal custodian for the purpose of concealing the child, or circumventing or avoiding the custody order or statute.
(2) When a pleading has been filed and served seeking a determination of custody of a child under the age of sixteen, it is unlawful for a person with the intent to circumvent or avoid the custody proceeding to take or transport, or cause to be taken or transported, the child for the purpose of concealing the child, or circumventing or avoiding the custody proceeding.
It is permissible to infer that a person keeping a child outside the limits of this State for more than seventy-two hours without notice to a legal custodian intended to violate this subsection.”
The law goes on to explain what sort of crime parental kidnappings are considered depending on the circumstances. For example, a person who violates the above subsections is guilty of a felony and may receive a fine, a prison sentence of up to five years, or both.
If the child is returned within the jurisdiction of the court where the custody petition was filed within three days, it’s a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of three years. If physical force or the threat of physical force was involved, the sentence may be as long as 10 years.
Parental Kidnapping with a Custody Order
When a parent kidnaps a child, it’s important to consider your custody order. If a parent is in violation of the custody order by taking a child away from the other parent, you can simply contact the court to file a complaint for contempt of court. These are typically cut-and-dried cases that are fairly easy to handle as long as the other parent doesn’t pose a threat to your child.
Parental Kidnapping without a Custody Order
If your spouse or former spouse kidnaps your child and there’s no custody order in place, that’s when things can start to get tricky. A parent can violate a custody order that doesn’t exist, which means you may have to file an emergency custody order instead. This can help prevent the other parent from taking your child out of South Carolina.
Emergency custody orders are designed to protect children who are at substantial risk of physical harm or physical abuse, so it’s important to properly gauge the situation before you decide to file an emergency custody order.
Avoiding Parental Kidnappings
As a parent, it’s important to do what you can to protect your children, which includes protecting them from parental kidnappings. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to avoid parental kidnappings if you think the other parent might kidnap your child. First off, you should request a custody order and visitation rights that are designed to protect your child(ren) from abduction. This can include supervised visitation, entering your child’s name in the Passport Issuance Alert Program, and surrendering your child’s passport.
You should also talk to your child about what to do in case of parental kidnappings, and make sure they know emergency information such as their home address and phone number. Additionally, talk to your child’s school or daycare to make sure they’re aware of the custody agreement.
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How to Handle Parental Kidnapping in South Carolina
If your child is a victim of parental kidnapping, it’s important to take the right steps to locate them and get them back to you safely. First things first, make sure you call the police if you believe your child is in danger. When you call the police, have them file a Missing Child Report, so your child is entered into a database that can be accessed by law enforcement agencies.
When you’re talking to law enforcement, make sure you’ve got any relevant documents and take plenty of notes. Keep note of who you talk to when you talk to them, and any important things they may say to you. This gives you information to provide to an attorney if you hire one, plus it helps you keep track of who you’re dealing with and any important details that are being covered in those conversations.
Get Help from The Committee for Missing Children
At the end of the day, getting help from professionals is the best way to handle parental kidnappings. The Committee for Missing Children is dedicated to helping left-behind parents reunite with missing or abducted children. They work with law enforcement agencies across the country and throughout the world to help left-behind parents locate missing children.