This blog has previously discussed how courts can enforce parenting plans when one parent, or other person for that matter, hides the child from the other parent or otherwise refuses to return the child to the parent who has custody. For a number of reasons, many of which are legitimate, parents seriously break the terms of a parenting plan or do so violate child custody orders with such frequency that they may face criminal charges, either instead of or in addition to a civil contempt.
Arizona law indeed does punish such behavior as a felony, although relatively minor violations can be handled as a misdemeanor. Basically, anyone who withholds a child from the child’s legal custodian can run afoul of this law, although in practice, prosecutors may not always choose to enforce this law.
There are certain defenses that may be available to a parent or to a third party, who is accused of breaking this law. While these defense can be technical in nature, they generally speaking boil down to the notion that a parent can be justified in withholding a child from the custodial parent, if that parent believes, with good reason, that the child will be in some sort of danger otherwise. In other words, Phoenix parents are not expected to choose between the safety of their children and following the law.
A custodial parent who feels that the other parent or other party has legally interfered with their lawful custody should consider contacting the police or the prosecutor. A parent who gets accused of doing so may have defenses available to him or her, and these may be raised with the help of an attorney who has experience with family law and child custody.