Custodial interference occurs when one parent attempts to permanently or for a long period of time deprive the other parent of contact with the children in violation of a valid child custody order from the court. There are extremely serious consequences for the offending parent, the innocent parent and of course the children.
In the spirit of deterring this kind of behavior, we will begin with the consequences for the offending parent. First, violation of any court order can be quite serious with possible findings of contempt, fines, awards of attorney fees and costs, and possible jail. Violation of a child custody and time-sharing order in the form of custodial interference is taken very seriously by the family law court judges in New Mexico.
Parents considering this sort of behavior should also know that the consequences go well beyond the family law court. Custodial interference is also a criminal offense. I fact, it is an extremely seriously criminal offense. The custodial interference statute, NMSA § 30-4-4 actually falls under the New Mexico kidnapping statutes. As such, it is a felony offense coming with potentially very harsh criminal penalties including imprisonment for up to 18 months for each count.
The harmful consequences of custodial interference go well beyond those to the offending party. In fact, custodial interference is often part of a broader campaign of parental alienation orchestrated by one parent to completely sever the parent-child relationship with the other. The harm to the innocent parent is incalculable in terms of the lost time with the child that can never be recovered. In many cases, despite the fact that the behavior of the offending party was clearly wrong and even criminal in nature, the emotional bonds can never be repaired.
These same harms are suffered by the child. In a successful campaign of parental alienation, the child may not even be aware of the full extent of the harm until years later, if ever. However, the damage to the child is enormous with the loss of one parent even for only a relatively short period of time. The emotional toll on the child is often irreparable.
Any parent contemplating any kind of behavior that would keep the child from the other parent for an extended period of time in violation of a court order would do well to seek the assistance of an experienced family law attorney as well as the services of a criminal law attorney since he or she will likely need one very soon. For the innocent party, do not delay. Take action immediately to protect yourself, and most importantly your child.