Although family law courts regularly order joint child custody or visitation rights, judges cannot guarantee that parents will abide by the court orders. A parent who is unjustifiably denied custody by the other parent may try to seek recourse from the police. In Texas, interference with child custody is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. However, a recent special report uncovered that law enforcement agencies in Texas will often refuse to involve themselves in matters of child custody.
Documents from law enforcement offices in the five largest metropolitan cities in Texas indicated that Austin was the only city of these five in which there was any record of individuals being charged for interference with child custody; only two individuals were charged. Austin, San Antonio and Dallas police did not provide any written policies regarding the crime of interference with child custody. The Houston Police Department had a policy that specifically stated that child custody matters should be referred to civil court.
Although the El Paso Police Department provided a policy stating that they review reports of child custody interference, the office produced no records of anyone ever being arrested for the crime. Deputies in El Paso County said they feared that if they referred any custody cases to the district attorney’s office, they would face negative consequences. Deputies cited a comment from someone in the district attorney’s office who said that the office does not waste time on civil matters.
The district attorney of El Paso suggested that many calls to the police about custody violations may simply be for small technical violations of custody orders, such as a parent being an hour late to a custody exchange. The DA also said that family court matters are difficult to enforce at a criminal level. A family law attorney may be able to help parents grappling with these custody issues.
Source: KFOX, “Special Report: Interference with child custody not enforced in Texas”, Bill Melugin, February 03, 2014