A divorced mother picking up her son after receiving legal support for custodial interference

What is Custodial Interference and How Is It Handled in Texas?

Custodial interference is a serious legal matter in the state of Texas. There are guidelines in the Texas Penal Code that deal specifically with what’s known as “interference with child custody.”

If you believe that your ex-spouse, the parent of your child, or another individual has interfered with your rights to possess your child, then you should be aware that you can pursue legal action against the alleged offender.

I will unpack how this works so that you understand your parental rights. I will also explain how I can help your situation by enforcing a child custody order in Texas.

How Custodial Interference is Determined in Texas

When an original order for child custody is established, all parties must follow certain legal guidelines. The order specifies the roles of the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent, the access and possession rights for the non-custodial parent, and the visitation schedule.

Custodial interference occurs when the law and order are clearly violated. If the matter is brought before a judge, the court will determine the severity of the violation to determine the severity of the punishment.

According to the Texas Penal Code, there are specific instances where a court has the ability to hear a case to determine whether a party has interfered with a child custody order. Consider these specific categories of violations.

1. Knowingly Violating the Child Custody Order

A person is deemed to have committed an offense if they take or retain a child younger than 18 years of age under the following circumstances.

  1. When the party knows that their action “violates the express terms of a judgment or order” that deals with child custody.
  1. When the party has not been awarded custody of the child taken into their possession.
  1. When the party has knowledge that a suit for child custody has been filed in a court.
  1. When the party takes the child out of the Texas county where a child custody suit has been filed in an attempt to “deprive the court of authority over the child.”
  1. When the party attempts to take the child outside of the U.S. without permission in order to deprive the other party of possession or access to the child.

In summary, these violations are based on the idea that the alleged offender knows that their actions do not comply with the law or court order yet still attempt to circumvent the law or the court by taking possession of the child.

2. Violations by the Non-Custodial Parent

The Texas Penal Code also deals with specific violations committed by the non-custodial parent. According to Texas law, a non-custodial parent has committed an offense if the parent intentionally “interferes with the lawful custody” of a child under the age of 18.

For example, a non-custodial parent breaks the law if they “knowingly entice or persuade the child” to leave the custody of the custodial parent, a guardian, or another person who is legally recognized as a stand-in for the custodial parent or guardian.

In other words, the non-custodial parent cannot abuse their parental rights by attempting to have the child go away with them to escape the custodial parent. This is considered a serious offense that could result in jail time and a hefty fine if convicted.

Your Legal Options During Custodial Interference

If you believe that a party has violated the child custody laws in Texas or the terms of a child custody order, then you can pursue a few different legal options.

1. Enforcement of the Order

Each party must comply with the original order for child custody. If another party is clearly disobeying or violating the order, then you can pursue legal enforcement of the order.

Essentially, a judge will review the evidence presented against the offending party and determine whether the individual should be held in contempt of the court. Depending on the severity of the offense, the offending party could face punishment or a reduction in their parental rights.

The offending party would then be expected to comply with the original child custody order moving forward. The enforcement of the order could also come with new guidelines to ensure that the offending party does not continue to violate the order.

2. File a Police Report or Lawsuit

If the custodial interference is severe, you can file a police report or file a civil or criminal lawsuit. In this case, I can help you find outside legal assistance.

As a family law attorney, I help my clients by pursuing enforcement of the original court order for child support. However, I can still guide you on what to do if there is a severe violation of a child custody order that goes beyond enforcing the original order.

Find Legal Support When Dealing With Custodial Interference

I currently help parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County work through custodial interference legal issues. I can help assess your situation, determine the severity of the violation, and walk you through your legal options to stop the offending party.

If you live in one of these Texas counties, contact me to discuss your situation. You can call my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to review your legal options. I am here to help you during this difficult time!