WomensLaw is not just for women. We serve and support all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Important: Some courts are hearing cases virtually due to COVID. See our FAQ on Courts and COVID-19.

Legal Information: General

Parental Kidnapping

December 17, 2019

If there is a custody order in place, can I take my children out of the state?

The answer to this question is complicated and may depend on many factors such as whether leaving the state violates the other parent’s visitation time, whether the custody order addresses leaving the state, whether the custody case is ongoing, how long you will be away, etc.  To find out how these factors may affect your ability to leave the state with your child, we strongly suggest showing your custody order to an attorney who specializes in custody for specific advice.  Go to our Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals. 

Generally, if leaving the state would interfere with the other parent’s visitation with the child or violate any other term of your custody order, you may be at risk of facing criminal parental kidnapping (custodial interference) charges in addition to any civil contempt charges for violating a custody order.  Being charged with either may put you at risk of losing custody as well as other penalties.  Also, often times when a custody case is pending (ongoing), both parents may be prohibited from removing the child from the state (jurisdiction). 

If leaving the state would violate your custody order, you may likely need to file in court to ask the judge to modify the order to allow for your child to leave the state. 

If the other parent agrees to allow you to leave the state in violation of the custody order, you may want to ask an attorney whether getting written, notarized permission from the other parent would be enough to protect you from a later accusation of parental kidnapping or violation of the court order or not.  There may be other protections in your state that allow you to take your children out of state, even if the custody order doesn’t appear to permit it.

Again, please talk to a lawyer in your state who is familiar with custody and domestic violence.