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What is interference with custody in Georgia?

As has been noted previously, one of the most contentious issues in many family law cases is that of child custody. We have talked briefly about legal and physical custody, as well as certain factors a court may take into account when granting custody to one or both parties. We have also discussed visitation and how that can be awarded to one or another of a minor child's parents. However, as news stories can attest, there are sometimes major disagreements about custody and visitation issues, and sometimes this can lead to one parent keeping a child longer than his or her permitted visitation time, or removing the child from the locale of the child's legal residence or even the state of Georgia itself. What can happen in these instances?

While some might refer to this as kidnapping, and in certain cases that crime might apply, the Georgia Code contemplates a separate offense that it calls interference with custody. One major difference between this charge and kidnapping is that, in interference with custody, the person taken does not have to be held against his or her will as an element of the crime.

Basically, a person, including a legal parent, could be charged with interference with custody if he or she takes or entices a minor child away from the person who is supposed to have lawful custody of that child, or if he or she has a legal period of custody or visitation that expires, and the child is kept beyond the expiration of such period. Further, there is another offense of interstate interference with custody, which occurs when a person takes a child out of Georgia without the permission of the legal custodian of the child, or keeps the child in another state beyond the expiration of a lawful period of visitation.

It is important for those involved in custody or visitation disputes to understand that the law will enforce the rulings of family law courts. It is generally not in a person's best interest to flout such orders on his or her own. Further, parents who are worried about the other party potentially taking a child without permission may have some civil remedies in family court as well as the criminal ones mentioned here. Those who have questions about child custody or visitation may wish to consider contacting an experienced Georgia family lawyer.

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