Imagine the unthinkable happens. Your children are taken away from you, and you don’t know where they are. You don’t know if they are safe.
Are they scared? Are they hungry? Are they hurt?
The questions and fears multiply. It is a haunting scenario, one that no parent wants to experience. But, sometimes children are taken away by someone responsible for taking care of them – a parent or another guardian. A parent may keep a child longer than their custody agreement allows or take them on an extended vacation without approval. Is this still kidnapping?
CBS News recently reported on a parental kidnapping of two young children. Their non-custodial mother disappeared with them in March of 2022 and they were just reunited with their father in early February. He had not seen them for almost a year. The couple’s marriage ended in 2016; with an apparent joint custody agreement, but then the father was granted sole custody after the mother failed to appear in court.
The father claims that the children have told him they had not been to school since they disappeared, that they were instructed not to talk to people or look them in the eye, and that they had traveled from state-to-state living in rented homes. An advocate for the non-custodial mother claims that the mother felt she was not being treated fairly by the courts and was being denied due process. She also claims that the children were homeschooled during their time away. What happens in a situation like this?
What are the laws regarding kidnapping in North Carolina?
Kidnapping statutes vary from state to state and there are varied degrees and types of offenses. The North Carolina statute on kidnapping states:
Any person who shall unlawfully confine, restrain, or remove from one place to another, any other person 16 years of age or over without the consent of such person, or any other person under the age of 16 years without the consent of a parent or legal custodian of such person, shall be guilty of kidnapping.
The statute goes on to say the following:
…the person shall be guilty of kidnapping if such confinement, restraint or removal is for the purpose of: (1) Holding such other person for a ransom or as a hostage or using such other person as a shield; or (2) Facilitating the commission of any felony or facilitating flight of any person following the commission of a felony; or (3) Doing serious bodily harm to or terrorizing the person so confined, restrained or removed or any other person; or (4) Holding such other person in involuntary servitude in violation of G.S. 14-43.12. (5) Trafficking another person with the intent that the other person be held in involuntary servitude or sexual servitude in violation of G.S. 14-43.11. (6) Subjecting or maintaining such other person for sexual servitude in violation of G.S. 14-43.13.
Degrees of kidnapping
In addition to those parameters, there are varying degrees of kidnapping.
- A first-degree offense happens when the person kidnapped is not released by the defendant in a safe place or has been seriously injured or sexually assaulted.
- Kidnapping in the second degree happens when the person kidnapped is released in a safe place by the defendant and has not been seriously injured or sexually assaulted.
Statute 14.41 refers to the abduction of children. “Any person who, without legal justification or defense, abducts or induces any minor child who is at least four years younger than the person to leave any person, agency, or institution lawfully entitled to the child’s custody, placement, or care shall be guilty of abduction.”
Lastly, Statute 14-43.3 outlines felonious restraint, which is when a person:
Unlawfully restrains another person without that person’s consent, or the consent of the person’s parent or legal custodian if the person is less than 16 years old, and moves the person from the place of the initial restraint by transporting him in a motor vehicle or other conveyance.
Felonious restraint is considered a lesser included offense of kidnapping.
What is medical kidnapping?
Imagine your child is sick and you do not agree with the hospital or doctor’s treatment plan. You should have the final say in what happens to your child, but in some instances, medical experts can intervene and take over legal guardianship of your child. This can happen when parents and the medical team do not agree. In some instances, the state can step in and take over the custody of your child when this type of disagreement occurs. If a doctor or hospital feels you are not acting in the best interest of your child, they may place your child in foster care and you may not be able to see them. Scenarios like this seem like an episode of Law and Order, but they can happen and parents will need legal advice.
Child custody laws can be quite confusing and overwhelming. Custody battles can last a long time and issues can arise if agreements are not reached. If you have questions or concerns about child custody, parental or medical kidnapping, or your rights as a custodial or non-custodial parent, the child custody attorneys at Epperson Law Group, PLLC, can help to answer questions and ease your mind.
To schedule a consultation with an experienced child custody and visitation lawyer in Boone, Charlotte, or Weddington, please call our office, or complete our contact form. At Epperson Law Group, PLLC, we are focused on reasonable and lasting legal solutions. Our lawyers are dedicated and accomplished practitioners in all aspects of family law issues and have over 70 years of combined legal and trial experience. We invite you to contact us to discuss your unique situation.