Whether a parent has been granted sole, physical, or legal custody by the court, that decision must be respected by both parties. In joint custody, for instance, the court requires the child to spend time with both parents in proportions that have been set by the court. The non-custodial parent may be granted visitation by the court, and those rights must be respected and obeyed. 

When one parent tries to disrupt those orders regarding custody of the child, that is considered custody interference. In Missouri for instance, a person can commit an interference offense when he or she has no legal right to custody tries to take a person that is in the custody of another person as granted by the court. 

In Missouri and most other states, this is classified a misdemeanor and a person found guilty of the offense can face time in jail and a hefty fine. This is also the case with other states such as Florida and Montana among others. Other states like Illinois wait for a repeated pattern to be formed before taking it seriously.

Valid custodial interference 

Some interference may be to shield the child from the harmful behaviors of the other parent. In other instances, it may be as a result of natural or bad weather conditions. Such instances that are justified or beyond the control of the parent can be referred to as valid custodial interference. 

Therefore, it is important to note that a parent may interfere with the custody rights of the other parent under certain circumstances that may include:

  • To protect the child from the danger that he or she has been subjected to by the other parent. 
  • When the child requests to be removed from the custody of one parent without any enticement. 
  • To protect the child from cases of abuse and domestic violence. 

These instances of interference do not violate the law in most states if a person can prove the above, when the other parent sues for interference. A parent may act to safeguard the child against the harmful acts of the other parent, if in the best interests of the child. 

Instances of custodial interference 

There are many instances where a parent may be accused of committing an offense of interference. This is where a parent behaves or acts contrary to what is contained in the court order regarding custody of the child. These instances may include:

Denying scheduled visits 

If a custodial parent denies a child to visit the other parent, that is considered to be custody interference. It goes against the court orders and hence that parent may be held accountable by the law. The parent with visitation rights can seek the court to have the other parent punished for denying him the time that had earlier been allocated by the court. 

Unfortunately this is all too common in custody cases. The parent needs only to claim the child is sick or doesn’t feel well, and then, demonize the other parent for wanting to move the sick child.

Holding the child after visitation 

This may apply to the non-custodial parent. When a child visits and the non-custodial parent holds the child past the allocated time without reasonable cause, that parent is liable to be held in contempt of the court for child custody interference. 

Of course, there are instances where a parent may keep the child past allocated hours for the safety of the child. These include cases of extreme weather conditions that may not allow safe travel.

The mistake some parents make when this happens is proclaiming they are owed extra time they were deprived of at an earlier date and proceeding to bend the rules. This normally doesn’t end well with the police getting involved. 

Enticing the child 

If a parent entices the child with sweet or threatening words to move away from the other parent, that is also considered to be interference by the court. Unless the child is of age and decides to move without the parents’ enticement, then that is a unique case by itself. 

This typically falls under the scope of Environmental Abuse to the child. Just like Gaslighting an individual, there are no physical marks of abuse, but damage is done to the psyche by way of manipulation and intimidation.

Limiting communication

A parent may be held in contempt of court if he or she limits the time that the child spends on the phone with the other parent, in most cases, the non-custodial parent. Monitoring the phone calls, text messages, or emails between the other parent and the child is also a kind of interference. 

Screening and commenting on the other parents’ communication with the child is a big conflict of interest. This will only cause trouble for you and erode any trust from your child you had.

Parental kidnapping 

Kidnapping is a serious offense that a parent would commit by taking the child secretly away from the custodial parent. This is considered parental kidnapping and violates the custody orders hence punishable by the law. 

This may include taking, removing, concealing, or detaining the child without good cause, or with the intent to deprive the other parent of the custody of the child- according to Missouri Statute.

Things get more serious if the child is taken out of state. Consequences can be severe.

What are the penalties for child custody interference?

Most of the states treat child custody interference as a misdemeanor and the person found guilty of the crime may face a sentence, fine, or both. The court may also require supervised visitation moving forward. 

If the case escalates to kidnapping, then the parent found guilty may face more serious consequences that may include felony imprisonment, fines, or both as dictated by each states’ laws. 

How to deal with child custody interference 

If the other parent has interfered with the custody of the child, then you can report the matter to the court or any law enforcement office. You may also request the court to grant you new or specific orders such as supervised visitation to prevent future occurrences of the same problem. 

In addition to that, you may request the court to grant you makeup visitation if the custodial parent has been holding or denying allocated visits. 


Child custody interference is a crime that is punishable by the law. Most states treat this offense as a misdemeanor and can fall into different classes of misdemeanor offenses. A person found guilty of the offense may face imprisonment of a specified period, fines, or both. 

Therefore, as a parent, if your ex-spouse who holds custody of the child has behaved or acted in a way that interferes with the custody of the child, or vice versa, then you can report the matter for action to be taken against such parent since he or she is not acting in a manner that promotes the best interests of the child.