Depriving Parenting Rights Crime

Family law can get downright nasty – especially when it comes to parenting rights. It is not uncommon for the parents to fight tooth and nail to maximize their parenting time to the detriment of the other parent. Multiple hearings and parenting time orders from courts can accrue over time. And when it gets to this point, it can lead to ignoring those court orders and keeping the child(ren) beyond what is ordered. If this happens, a parent could face felony criminal charges for depriving parenting rights.

Minnesota Statute 609.26 defines the felony crime of depriving parenting rights as follows: “Whoever intentionally takes, obtains, retains, or fails to return a minor child from or to the parent in violation of a court order, where the action manifests an intent substantially to deprive that parent of rights to parenting time or custody.” Simply keeping a child beyond what’s permitted in the parenting time order, though, doesn’t automatically lead to a felony criminal charge for depriving parenting rights. It must be substantial in the act. A recent Minnesota Supreme Court ruling went in to what this means in State v. Culver (A17-1968).

The Court focused its ruling on the critical phrase of the statute: “where the action manifests an intent substantially to deprive that parent of rights to parenting time or custody.” It ruled that the evidence must be viewed objectively, rather than subjectively from the defendant’s point of view.

It was also determined that the term ‘substantial’ requires the depriving parenting rights act to be “considerable in importance, value, degree, amount or extent.” This requires analyzing both qualitative and quantitative factors, such as the nature of the days, as well as the number of days, missed.

The quantitative analysis is rather straight-forward – how many days has the defendant been depriving parenting rights. The qualitative factor looks beyond that though, recognizing that all parenting time is different in quality. Factors such as the age of the child, whether the parenting time was for day-visits or overnights, or whether any holidays or special events were involved. The analysis is case specific.

Based on these points of analysis, the Court upheld a district court conviction for depriving parenting time when the defendant denied seven visits (including overnights) over a 15-day period and refused to provide alternative parenting time (as required by the order), which essentially amounted to completely ignoring the court parenting time order.

Facing felony charges for depriving parenting rights brings with it possible prison or jail time, and a heavy fine for punishment. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – it will almost certainly be used against the defendant in the family court matter and the parenting time order. The statute spells out several affirmative defenses that could defeat this charge, and it even requires dismissal of the charge if the defendant takes certain proactive steps almost immediately after being charged.

Needless to say, with so much at stake, it is critical to get a knowledgeable depriving parenting rights attorney on your side – immediately. Contact us right away.