Monday, January 19, 2009

Indiana SB 0272 – Custody Interference could become a felony

Indiana Senate Bill 0272, authored by Senator Head, had its first reading on 07 January 2009. Senator Merritt was added as the second author and Senator Arnold was added as coauthor, both, on 12 January 2009. This bill would enhance the penalties for custody interference lasting greater than 180 days to a Class D felony. As with any law though it is only as good as the enforcement. We all know that rarely does a court impose a penalty when a father shows up to get the children for visitation and gets told, “Sorry, you can't have them I have plans this weekend.”

In reading the language of the current statute it is somewhat one-sided to begin with. The first section has to do with a parent concealing by removing the child from the child's state of residence. This would be the state of the custodial parent. This is already a felony. So, a Non-Custodial Parent living out of state keeping the child at his house would be subject to a greater penalty than the CP doing the same thing.

State Representative Cleo Duncan introduced an amendment to IC 35-42-3-4, written by Ripley County Deputy Prosecutor Lynn Fledderman, which was adopted into law. This added a provision to prosecute parents who didn't return a child from visitation. Parents not allowing visitation should be subject to the same penalty.

I have known of many fathers who have been denied visitation with their children, some going on years. This is currently a crime as a Class C misdemeanor. I doubt that raising this to a Class D felony will result in any additional enforcement. I find it more likely though that a parent who has had custody taken away and doesn't return the children will find himself the subject of a prosecution which could become a felony if this bill is adopted.

In California it is a felony to interfere with custody for any period of time. If you have the children for the weekend and can't return them on-time for some reason, be it a car wreck, lost track of time or decided to stay an extra day in Disneyworld, you had better notify the other parent and just to be safe the local police also. Likewise, if the other parent is going to pick-up the children for visitation you better be there. Even if you just earned that the other parent's brother, who has been staying at the home, got arrested for cooking meth you had better call the police before not returning the children.

California's law may seem a bit extreme but only so in the context of a world where no one takes responsibility any longer. There is no great difficulty in finding a telephone and notifying someone. There may be the rare circumstance where you broke your leg hiking through a forest preserve and there is not cell towers within 20 miles. Barring that though it is as simple as making a phone call to the parent, police or an attorney.

Although this amendment could be used to pursue greater punishment against parents who do not allow visitation to take place it is very unlikely as most would just allow one visitation just shy of 180 days. Indiana does not need one more tid-bit of legislation that won't be enforced except against only a NCP who abducts the children. We need real legislation with teeth. We need to start with the presumption that both parents are entitled to custody.


The Real News said...

The information written about California is false.

The problem with most bills, is parties in family court are already treated criminally, without benefit of the rights afforded to criminal defendants.


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