Illinois specifically allows for the criminal prosecution of a parent who prevents a child from returning to the custodial parent or who interferes with another parent’s right to visitation. Abduction brings to mind images of a stranger that kidnaps children and carries them away to unknown locations. The sad reality is that most child abduction cases are undertaken by someone the child knows, usually a family member or parent.
Evolution of the Family
More and more people are co-parenting outside of marriage. This causes unanticipated tensions and complications for parenting. Most modern family codes, including Illinois, rarely award full custody to one parent over the other – except in extreme circumstances. The old dynamic of “custodial” and “non-custodial” parenting is also becoming defunct.
Instead, Illinois operates under the “parenting time” dynamic. This is designed to more equitably divide parenting time and responsibilities between both parents. Parents can now divide up who takes the kids to soccer practice, doctor visits, school and other typical parenting activities. The system encourages parents to cooperate, to create healthier family environments. However it can easily breakdown if the parents are unable to reconcile.
According to 720 ILCS Sec. 10-1(a), a person commits kidnapping (or abduction) when he or she “secretly confines” another person against “his or her will” by “force or threat of imminent force” or by deceit with the intent to “secretly confine.” The crime can be elevated to “aggravated” if that person uses a weapon, threatens ransom, kidnaps a child under age 13, or inflicts serious harm on the victim.
Furthermore, under 720 ILCS Sec. 10-5(b)(7), if the parent of a child does any of these actions to their own child, that also qualifies as child abduction.
Abduction by Parent without Custodial Order
According to 720 ILCS Sec. 10-5(b)(6), a parent can abduct their child if, absent a custodial order, “knowingly conceals” a child “for 15 days and fails to make reasonable attempts within the 15 day period to notify the other parent.”
Many parents may believe that they have a right to take their child away. For example, if the parent feels their relationship with their child is in jeopardy. There are numerous reasons that may lead a parent to take their child. However, it is important to refrain from taking drastic action. A child abduction charge will certainly impact the court’s decision while it is deliberating the custodial order.
The law does allow a specific exception for parents that are fleeing domestic violence. Therefore, absent a serious situation, parents should try to work within the legal system or they risk their visitation and parental rights.
Interference with Parenting Time
Parents may not realize that they might be violating the law if they allow their child to skip parenting time. Violation of, or interference with, a parenting plan with the intention of depriving the other parent of their parenting time can result in a misdemeanor charge. After two prior convictions, it can be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor.
This is a relatively easy provision to run amok. The critical words in this provision are, “intentionally deprive.” This phrase should separate innocent forgetful moments from intentional acts designed to frustrate a parenting plan. However, it is easy for one to see how an over-eager police officer or prosecutor coupled with an angry parent could easily lead an investigation too far. Furthermore, courts will likely take into account any pending charges or convictions related to interference in parenting time. Parents must do their best to conform to the parenting plan and, if that isn’t possible, then inform the other parent as often and early as possible.
Dealing with a Difficult Parent
In Illinois almost every issue related to child rearing, custody and visitation is based on the best interests of the child standard. However, how does a parent jointly raise a child with a person that they dislike?
A common technique among divorce mediators is to guide the opposing parties to understand the other person’s position and feelings. These techniques, while seemingly basic, do bring people together. Empathy enables anyone dealing with a difficult relationship, to consider things from the other person’s point of view. Do they feel vulnerable? Is their connection to the children not as strong? Often people will “act out” without understanding the underlying cause of their actions.
However, what if the child does not like the other parent? This is more complicated and, unfortunately, the only way for a child to accept the other parent is time. The parent with the majority of parenting time can encourage the child by defending the other parent. Everyone loves their children and everyone wants their children to be happy. Children are generally happier when they have healthy relationships with both of their parents.