When the Pennsylvania courts award shared or joint custody, or when they grant one parent visitation, they do so because they believe that such an arrangement is in the best interests of the child. When a parent, guardian or other person withholds custody from the other parent or guardian, the courts may find the offending parent guilty of custody interference.
Per the Legal Information Institute, custodial interference occurs when a person recklessly or knowingly takes or entices a minor child from the custody of a parent, lawful custodian or guardian when he or she does not have a right to do so. The offense is a crime.
Consequences for custodial interference in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, the crime of custodial interference is a felony. What degree, however, depends on the person doing the taking or enticing and the reason behind it.
For instance, if a parent commits custodial interference, the courts may charge him or her with a third-degree felony. However, if the actor is not a parent or person with an equivalent relationship with the child, and if the actor commits the offense knowing full-well that his or her conduct would elicit fear in the child, the offense becomes a second-degree felony.
The courts may reduce the charge to a second-degree misdemeanor in select few instances. This may be the case if the offender can prove he or she acted with good cause and out of concern for the child’s safety and well-being, and if the interference occurred for no more than 24 hours. However, the court will only show leniency if the offender can prove the child is the subject of a valid court order; that he or she has visitation rights or partial custody; and that the victim child is a resident of the Commonwealth.