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Custodial Interference

Child custody cases can be complicated, and the relationships messy. Sometimes, one parent may disagree with the court’s ruling and decide to take matters into his or her own hands. If that happens, the parent could be charged with what is known as custodial interference, or violating custody agreements.

Custodial Interference may be tried in either the first or second degree; if charged with custodial interference in the first degree, the penalties can be harsh.

Attorney for Custodial Interference in Nassau County, New York

While child custody is typically handled in civil court, the plaintiff may seek criminal penalties. In such cases, even if you believe you’ve done nothing wrong, you can find yourself in a world of trouble. Miscommunication, intentional misrepresentation and other factors may result in a court case and the possibility of a felony conviction.

The Law Office of Stephanie Selloni accepts custodial interference cases in Garden City, Riverstead, Mineola, and other communities across Nassau and Suffolk County. Call(516) 972-1212 to schedule a free consultation with The Law Office of Stephanie Selloni today.

Custodial Interference in New York

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Understanding Custodial Interference

Custodial interference is defined by New York Penal Law § 135.45 & 135.50 as a result of taking a related child or person entrusted to another’s custody permanently or for a length of time when one does not have the legal right to do so. Child is defined here as someone 16 years or younger. One example of this could be one parent who does not have legal custody of a child taking that child to live with him or her without the permission of the other parent.

Legal Basis and Definitions:
In New York, custodial interference is primarily governed by the Domestic Relations Law (DRL) and Penal Law. The DRL establishes the rights and responsibilities of parents regarding custody and visitation, while the Penal Law addresses the criminal aspects of custodial interference.

Custodial interference can take various forms, including the violation of court-ordered custody arrangements or the removal of a child from the custodial parent without permission. The severity of the offense may depend on factors such as the duration of the interference, the intent of the individual involved, and any potential harm to the child.

Penal Law Article 135: Kidnapping and Related Offenses:
Under Article 135 of the New York Penal Law, custodial interference falls under the broader category of kidnapping and related offenses. Section 135.45 specifically addresses custodial interference, making it a crime to intentionally and unlawfully take a child from a legal custodian. This offense is classified as a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

If the child is removed from New York, the offense may be elevated to a class E felony under Section 135.50 Exposing the child to a safety risk will also elevate the charge. This felony charge carries a potential prison sentence of up to four years. Moreover, if the individual has a previous conviction related to custodial interference within the past ten years, the offense may be upgraded to a class D felony under Section 135.55, with a maximum prison term of seven years.

Custodial interference should not be confused with the general crime of kidnapping. The former requires some amount of consent from the person in custody, while the latter is a violent crime that can result in anywhere from 25 years to life in prison.

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Penalties for New York Penal Law § 135.5

The penalties for violating New York Penal Law § 135.45 & 135.50 vary widely. The following are the state penalties for committing high misdemeanor and low felony offenses.

  • Class A Misdemeanor
    • Up to 1 year in prison
    • Up to a $1,000 fine
  • Class E Felony
    • Between 1 and 4 years, with possibilities of parole of up to 2/3 of the maximum.

In addition to the above penalties, the accused may be forced to uphold a protective order or lose the possibility to receive custody in the future. Felony convictions also carry with them social stigma, difficulty in finding employment and housing, and loss of certain privileges like carrying a gun.

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Common Defenses for Custodial Interference Charges

Because of the nature of child custody, it can be difficult to build a strong case. Therefore, defenses may rest on mitigating charges or by arguing that the parent was unaware that he or she did not have the right to take the child.

  • Emergency Circumstances: If the individual reasonably believed that the child was in immediate danger, they may argue that the interference was necessary to protect the child from harm.
  • Consent of the Custodial Parent: If the noncustodial parent had the express consent of the custodial parent or legal guardian to take the child, this can serve as a strong defense. It is crucial that such consent is clear and unambiguous.
  • No Intent to Interfere: If the accused can demonstrate that their actions were not intentional or did not involve an intention to interfere with the custodial rights of the other parent, this may be a valid defense.
  • Returning the Child: In some cases, returning the child promptly to the custodial parent may be considered a mitigating factor. However, this may not absolve the accused of criminal liability.

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Hire a Custodial Interference Lawyer in Nassau County, New York

If you have been accused of custodial interference, it’s not just important but necessary for you to have legal counsel by your side that you trust. You can find an experienced and skilled domestic violence attorney with The Law Office of Stephanie Selloni.

The Law Office of Stephanie Selloni accepts custodial interference cases in Garden City, Riverstead, Mineola, and other communities across Nassau and Suffolk County. Call(516) 972-1212 to schedule a free consultation with The Law Office of Stephanie Selloni today.