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Legal Information: General

Parental Kidnapping

Laws current as of June 24, 2024

If there is a custody order in place, can I take my children out of the state?

The answer to this question is complicated and may depend on many factors such as whether leaving the state violates the other parent’s visitation time, whether the custody order addresses leaving the state, whether the custody case is ongoing, how long you will be away, etc. The state relocation and parental kidnapping laws may also apply. To find out how these factors may affect your ability to leave the state with your child, we strongly suggest showing your custody order to an attorney who specializes in custody for specific advice. Go to our Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.

If leaving the state would interfere with the other parent’s visitation rights or violate any other term of your custody order, the other parent might file a petition against you for civil contempt. You might also be at risk of criminal custodial interference charges. Either may put you at risk of losing custody as well as other penalties. If leaving the state would violate your custody order, you may need to ask the judge to change (modify) the order to allow for your child to leave the state.

Alternatively, if the other parent agrees to allow you to leave the state in violation of the custody order, you may want to ask an attorney whether getting written, notarized permission from the other parent would be enough to protect you from an accusation of parental kidnapping or violation of the court order.

Also, often times when a custody case is ongoing (pending), both parents may be prohibited from removing the child from the state (jurisdiction).

Again, please talk to a lawyer in your state who is familiar with custody and domestic violence.