Interference with child custody is a crime in Texas and is punishable with up to two years in prison. However, a recent investigative news report suggested that Texas law enforcement does not uphold the law in many jurisdictions.
Texas Penal Code 25.03 states that interference with child custody occurs when a person knows that the taking or retaining of a child violates a judgment or order but chooses to do so anyway.
After receiving a tip from a local family law attorney, news investigators with KFOX14 found that police in El Paso have an unwritten policy treating the offense as civil instead of criminal. That means no arrests are made nor charges are filed when the law is violated.
The investigators then found that the same policy appeared to be employed in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas as well. They found that Austin was the only major city in the state with records of anyone being charged for interference with child custody.
Family law attorneys interviewed by the investigators said they have encountered several instances in which unmarried fathers were denied access to their children in violation of the interference with child custody law but no charges were ever filed on their behalf.
Two fathers who were interviewed by the news investigators said they were kept from their children for years even though they had child custody orders granting them access.
Hopefully as a result of this news investigation the proper steps will be taken to ensure that law enforcement in the state begins treating interference with child custody for what it is — a criminal violation.
Source: KFOX14, “Special Report: Interference with Child Custody Not Enforced in Texas,” Bill Melugin, Feb. 3, 2014