ARS 13-1302 is the Arizona statute governing custodial interference. An individual can face custodial interference charges when they knowingly act in a manner that contradicts an existing parenting plan or when they act in a way defying the legal rights of a parent. Custodial interference takes place when a parent makes a decision to purposefully hamper the custody rights of the other parent. Sadly, this is a frequently a contentious issue in cases of shared custody and can even result in charges of a criminal nature being filed because once they are established, custody orders are enforceable, more than that, they are also binding from a legal standpoint.
When Can You Claim Custodial Interference?
Court orders have to be in place because if rights of legal decision making and parenting time are yet to be adjudicated by the court, there are no outstanding orders to be broken and there are no meaningful legal actions you can undertake until the courts sign off on the orders.
Examples Of Custodial Interference Include:
- When parenting time has been scheduled, refusing to bring the child or children.
- When the other parent has company making a visitation to the child or children without at first obtaining permission to do so.
- Not returning the child or children on schedule.
- Purposefully limiting the contact, the child or children have with the other parent.
- Using enticements on the child or children to isolate the parent holding custody.
- Taking the child or children before court orders are in place.
- Taking the child or children when it is not parenting time according to the schedule already in place.
These are common examples but as each situation is unique you should talk to a family law attorney and they can make a determination as to whether your rights have been violated.
When your child or children have been born out of wedlock, the law states the custodial rights go to the mother until brand new court orders becomes effective. It is vitally important you do not take any actions against the child or children or the mother. This law will be enforced and can result in criminal proceedings.
When The Other Parent Interferes With Custody
Custody agreements are often contentious but when you have a court order already in place, you are within your rights to call law enforcement when the other parent refuses to stick to the agreed parenting plan. Your actions should also be reported to the courts. Minor examples of interference will likely be met with a caution from law enforcement as well as the enforcement of the agreed, court order, plan of parenting. In cases when a parent continues to interfere in this way, the police will now have written documentation of the behavior and if needed can make an arrest. In situations when the custodial interference has become very extreme, the courts have the power to make the following changes to the established parenting plan:
- Transfers at a preset location that is neutral (sometimes a police station.)
- Visits that have to be supervised by a third party.
- Loss or restriction of custody and rights of visitation.
- Penalties and fines.
- Criminal repercussions.
Custodial Interference Penalties
As custody is an agreement that is court ordered, when this agreement is not adhered too, it is enforceable by law. The court system has the best interests of children uppermost in their thoughts. As per ARS 13-1302, custodial interference can be penalized by:
- Class Four Felony: Interference by a non-parent.
- Class Four or Class Six Felony: When a child or children is taken outside of state boundaries depending on the parenting agreement and the circumstances.
- Class One Misdemeanor: When the child or children are returned within a forty-eight hour timeframe and they are unharmed.
As you can see, the penalties are serious. That said, it is usually only in the most serious situations where criminal charges are filed. More than likely, the initial penalty will result in a loss of current parenting rights. Always remember, any action by the parent that is contrary to the interpreted best interests of the child or children will be taken very seriously indeed.
Custodial Interference Law Exemptions
In some situations, the court allows a parent non-adherence to the parenting plan if the following applies:
- A parent is protecting the child or children from harm.
- Disruptions to the parenting plan that have been previously agreed upon.
- Events the parents do not have control over.
There is no question it is frustrating to deal with custodial interference. However, the courts will be on your side and will protect your rights. The courts just will now permit a parent to continually transgress a parenting agreement that has been court ordered. The wellbeing of your child or children will be of primary concern and your own concerns will be taken seriously.
Source: “Custodial Interference in Arizona: Laws for a Disruptive Divorced Parent.” Mesa Divorce Lawyers & Family Law Attorneys, 30 May 2019, https://www.jacksonwhitelaw.com/arizona-family-law/custodial-interference-arizona/.
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*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.