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Can New York parents with child custody kidnap their children?

New York's Court of Appeals made a divided decision on June 1 that custodial parents can be convicted of kidnapping their children in limited situations. The judge writing for the majority specified that this was possible in cases where the defendant acts in a clear and unjustifiably dangerous manner toward the child. Parents in Poughkeepsie and across New York who do not have child custody and who fear that their child's custodial parent has acted in such a dangerous manner may well wish to take note of this ruling.

The Court of Appeals maintained in the 4-3 ruling that the 2009 conviction of a custodial father was valid. The man had been found guilty of kidnapping along with other charges stemming from an incident where he held his infant daughter hostage at knifepoint after police arrived on the scene of his ex-girlfriend's residence to investigate an alleged domestic dispute. The lower court sentenced him to a 25-year prison term.

This case is particularly noteworthy because custodial parents typically are not be held responsible for kidnapping their children after a divorce because the law recognizes their custodial rights over their children. As this New York case demonstrates, however, that parental right may be deemed to have ended when the custodial parent puts his or her child in clear and unjustifiable harm's way.

So do Poughkeepsie readers who have custody of their children need to worry about finding themselves convicted of kidnapping their own children? Perhaps only in situations where they put them in clear and undeniable danger, as occurred in this case. This ruling may provide a sense of relief to those noncustodial parents who fear that the parent holding child custody has placed their child in clear danger.

Source: Thomson Reuters, "Parents can be kidnappers: Court of Appeals," Jessica Dye, June 1, 2012