What is Custodial Interference?

A client may come to our office in a panic when the other parent has kept their child in violation of the parenting plan. In addition to speaking to their family law attorney regarding a potential habeaus corpus, or contempt action they are interested in learning about custodial interference, but what is it?

If a parent “takes, entices, retains, detains, or conceals the child” with the intent to deny access of the other parent to his or her child in violation of the court-ordered parenting plan they may be charged with custodial interference under Washington State law. Custodial interference may be charged in the first degree under RCW 9A.40.060 which is a felony or RCW 9A.40.070 which is a gross misdemeanor for a first time offense.


For a charge of custodial interference rises to the level of first degree if, in addition to the taking or concealing the child, the parent also:

  • Intends to hold the child permanently or for a long period of time;
  • Exposes the child to a substantial risk of illness or physical injury; or
  • Causes the child to be removed from the state where the child usually lives.

Custodial Interference in the second degree applies where a parent or relative of a child takes or conceals a child without the intent to hold the child for a long period of time, or in a manner that does cause substantial risk of illness or physical injury to the child. This applies where the parent is found to have violated the terms of the parenting after a finding of contempt under RCW  26.09.160(3); or the parent has “engaged in a pattern of willful violations of a court order making residential provisions for the child”.

Although custodial interference applies to parents, it is also extended to other relatives or third parties acting upon the parent’s directions.

While custodial interference may technically apply, police action or criminal charges will not necessarily be automatic. You should speak with your attorney as quickly as possible in these situations for assistance in determining the best approach to regaining your child.

As experienced family law lawyers, we understand that custody disputes can be stressful and confusing. For insight into your child custody situation, or for guidance in resolving your custody dispute call the family law attorneys at Elise Buie Family Law Group, PLLC for a free consolation.


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