What Constitutes Parental Kidnapping in Nevada

Under Nevada law, parental kidnapping is when a parent willfully detains, conceals, or removes a child from another person who has lawful custody over that child. Lawful custody is the legal right of a person to the custody of a child by operation of law or court order.

Parental Kidnapping in Nevada

Parental kidnaping interferes with the other parent’s right to custody. The custody decree or divorce decree outlines the duration and frequency of visitation as well as which party has physical custody and legal custody after divorce. Parents can know what custody rights they have by reading their decree.

In Nevada, parents have joint legal and joint physical custody of children if they are not yet divorced and no court has ordered anything about child custody.

Instances of Parental Kidnapping

Parental kidnapping can occur during school breaks with parents living in another state and having been granted summer visitation. When the child fails to return at the end of the summer, the parent could be guilty of kidnapping.

Consequences of Parental Kidnapping

A person who kidnaps his or her child can be prosecuted for a category D felony, which could result in up to $5,000 in fines and four years in prison. The person’s right to custody in divorce proceedings could also be jeopardized.

In most cases, imposing fines is usually enough to enforce appropriate behavior in the offending parent. Custody modification is also a likely outcome of cases involving kidnapping. The court may require that future visitation be supervised to make sure kidnapping does not occur again.


A few situations are exceptions to parental kidnapping. For instance, the parent’s actions could have been committed in the child’s best interests, such as to protect the child from impending danger of neglect, domestic violence, or abuse. The parent’s actions may also not be parental kidnapping if they are done to protect the parent from impending domestic violence or physical harm.

Parental kidnapping can have serious consequences. Parents should ensure they comply with court orders or get a written agreement from the other parent(s) before taking children out of state. If parents have to keep children from seeing their other parents because of an emergency or danger, they should ensure their reasoning can be supported in court with the help of a family law attorney. Alternatively, they could get an emergency temporary child custody order.

Kimberly Surratt served for eight years on the executive council and has been the vice chair and then chair of the State Bar of Nevada Family Law Section. In addition, she is the President-Elect of the Nevada Justice Association and the chair of the domestic lobbying committee. She has lobbied with the Nevada Justice Association since 2004.

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