Criminal charges: Interference with custody

by Jeralyn Lawrence, Family Law Attorney, Lawrence Law

In New Jersey, people who interfere with custody can face criminal charges. While rare, however, it can be effective when someone defies a court Order enforcing custody and parenting time.

In a recent New Jersey case (State v. Thomas), a mother was convicted of third-degree interference with custody. She took her daughter to a make-up water safety class rather than to the child’s father for his parenting time. The mother argued that the class was important for the child’s safety because they lived near a pool. This explanation did not persuade the Court. She was convicted interfering with custody which is a third-degree offense. The Appellate Division upheld parts of the trial court’s decision and remanded the case for consideration of other parts of the decision.

While this may not be the most conventional remedy in a parenting time dispute, it is important law and precedent to be aware of for those who need to enforce a parenting time schedule due to a lack of cooperation from the other parent, as well as for those parents who continually have their parenting time thwarted.

If you find yourself in either of these situations, please do not hesitate to contact me to further discuss your matter. I can be reached at .

Jeralyn Lawrence is a family law attorney with Lawrence Law in Watchung. She also serves as Second Vice President of the New Jersey State Bar Association (slated to become President in 2022), is the Past Chair of the Family Law Section of the NJSBA, and serves as Second Vice-President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She can be reached at or (908) 645-1000.

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