Many parents with custody orders may struggle with the fact that they can't see their children on their own terms. Even if you have visitation rights, the court may still put certain restrictions on how you spend your time with your children. And being denied access to your children altogether can be even more devastating.
While you might feel that a custody order is unjust and you have a right to see your children, violating the terms of the order is not the solution. Custody cases are a civil matter, but interfering with a custody order is a criminal offense. A recent incident in Meadville, Pennsylvania, illustrates the severe consequences of interfering with custody and what's at stake if you do.
The Consequences of Custody Interference
Ariann Nishnick was recently sentenced for interference with the custody of a child in Crawford County. Nishnick had taken a child under age 18 from their home in Cussewago in January 2020. Full primary custody of this child belonged to the resident of the home, not to Nishnick. Nishnick later relinquished the child at the state police barracks, unharmed.
Even though the child was unharmed, Nishnick was still charged with a felony for concealment of the whereabouts of a child and a misdemeanor for interference with custody of a child. After pleading guilty to the misdemeanor, the Crawford County District Attorney's Office agreed to drop the felony charge. Nishnick was sentenced in early March 2021 to serve three to 18 months in jail, with no fines or court costs.
Although Ariann Nishnick may have believed she was acting justly or in the child's interest, she still violated the custody order by knowingly and recklessly taking a child under 18 from the custody of their parent or guardian without the privilege to do so. Since the person the child lived with had full and primary custody, Nishnick did not have the privilege to take the child.
Parental kidnapping is common in custody cases, where one parent abducts their children in violation of the custody agreement. It's understandable that parents want to see their children, but going against the custody agreement is breaking the law, and the repercussions are serious.
What penalties could face for custody interference?
- Third-degree felony: Three and a half to seven years' prison sentence and a fine of up to $15,000
- Second-degree misdemeanor: One to two years' prison sentence and a fine of up to $5,000
Parental kidnapping may be considered a misdemeanor instead of a felony if all of the following are true:
- The parent who takes the child has partial custody or visitation rights
- The parent takes the child for 24 hours or less
- The parent does not remove the child from the state
Defending A Custody Interference Charge
Attorney Joseph D. Lento helps parents facing charges of custody interference by crafting a solid defense strategy and clarifying their intent. Dealing with custody interference charges on your own isn't advised, as it involves complicated matters of both family law and criminal defense.
As your attorney, Joseph Lento can be an ally to you during a troubling, emotionally-wrought time. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.