Unlawful Removal of a Child from a Maryland Custodian
Maryland child custody laws provide one or both parents with the authority to exercise control of their minor children. A parent with custody rights is allowed to make certain decisions on behalf of their child, such as education or healthcare. If a family relative takes the child away from their lawful custodian without reasonable justification, it is a crime under Maryland law.
Definition of Lawful Custodians & Family Relatives
The definition of lawful custodians and relatives appear under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 9-301. The term lawful custodian refers to any person who is legally authorized to have custody of or control over a child under the age of 16.
The term family relative refers to:
- Uncles; or
- Former lawful custodians who removed the child unlawfully.
Unlawful Removal of a Child
The laws against removing a child appear under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 9-304 and Section 9-305. In general terms, family relatives are not allowed to deprive lawful custodians of possession of children under 16 years old.
In precise terms, unlawful removal of a child applies whenever a family relative:
- Abducts or otherwise takes the child away from their lawful custodian to a place in Maryland, another U.S. state, or a foreign country;
- Detains the child for more than 48 hours in Maryland, another U.S. state, or a foreign country, after the lawful custodian demands the child’s return;
- Harbors or otherwise hides the child in Maryland, another U.S. state, or a foreign country, knowing that such action violates the lawful custodian’s rights; or
- Aids or abets another person in the commission of any of the acts described above.
Penalties for Unlawful Removal of a Child
The penalties for unlawful removal of a child appear under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 9-307. These penalties fluctuate based on where the offense occurred and, in certain cases, the length of the removal.
Specifically, unlawful removal of a child is punishable as follows:
- Maryland — Any family relative who unlawfully removes a child to somewhere else in Maryland is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to 30 days in prison and $250 in fines;
- Other States (less than 30 days) — Any family relative who unlawfully removes a child to another U.S. state for less than 30 days is guilty of a felony and subject to 12 months in prison and $1,000 in fines;
- Other States (more than 30 days) — Any family relative who unlawfully removes a child to another U.S. state for more than 30 days is guilty of a felony and subject to 36 months in prison and $2,500 in fines; or
- Foreign Country — Any family relative who unlawfully removes a child to a foreign country is guilty of a felony and subject to 60 months in prison and $5,000 in fines.
Let Us Help You Today
If you have legal questions about unlawful child removal or other areas of Maryland family law, it can be especially favorable to reach out to a skilled family law attorney. The Bel Air child custody attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including divorce and related considerations. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.