Arizona Judges OK to use Parental Alienation in Custodial Interference Cases

In Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Marriage, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Disorders, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation on February 20, 2010 at 1:55 am

February 19, 2010 /24-7PressRelease/

Custodial Interference and Parental Alienation in AZ

Police arrested a woman in connection with a child abduction case even though she is not a suspect in the child’s disappearance.

Instead, Tammi Smith of Scottsdale, Ariz., faces custodial interference charges for her lengthy and repeated pressure to adopt the 8-month-old baby. The legally and emotionally complex world of adoption and parental custody is further complicated by custodial interference and parental alienation.

Courts grant various levels of custody to birth parents, adoptive parents and guardians. Physical custody means the child lives with the custodian at least part of the time, who is responsible for the child’s well-being. Legal custody allows rights to decide on schooling, religion and other major factors in a child’s life. It may or may not coincide with physical custody. Both types of custody also can be split in joint custody cases.

Parents or other individuals can be charged with custodial interference if they refuse to return a child to the custodian after visitation or otherwise try to deny the right to established custody.

Custodial interference laws vary widely between states. Under Arizona state law, a person who is not the parent or legal custodian can face a Class 3 felony for keeping a child from their legal custodian. This may bring a sentence of up to 8.75 years in prison.

Smith had brief guardianship over Gabriel Johnson, the 8-month-old baby she wants to adopt. After this 10-day period, she allegedly bullied Gabriel’s father, forged court documents and tried to have the custody case moved to Tennessee, where the laws might be more favorable to her adoption case. These extreme measures led to a charge of conspiracy to commit custodial interference. A second charge of custodial interference was dropped.

The more common type of custodial interference is one parent keeping the child away from another parent in a joint custody situation. Under Arizona state law, this type of custodial interference is a Class 6 felony, bringing sentences ranging from probation to years in prison.

In such cases, judges may also take parental alienation syndrome (PAS) into consideration. Parental alienation is when one parent repeatedly criticizes and disparages the other parent in an attempt to alienate the child from the other parent. Often the result is that the child no longer wants to have contact with the alienated parent. The degree of parental alienation may differ in severity (mild, moderate, severe) based on the circumstances, and the effects may vary ranging from the child acting out when in the alienated parents care to permanent damage to the parent/child relationship.

Due to the harmful nature of PAS, and custodial interference, it is important to speak to a family law attorney in your area if you believe your child may be a victim. A lawyer can provide more information on warning signs to look for in your child, assess the circumstances of your case and answer your questions regarding your legal rights and options.

Article provided by Cates, Hanson, Sargeant & Rakestraw, P.L.C.
Visit us at www.scottsdaleazdivorcelaw.com

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Press Release – Custodial Interference and Parental Alienation in AZ.

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