ARS 13-1302: Custodial Interference Laws in Arizona


Custodial interference in Arizona is governed by ARS 13-1302. A person can be charged with custodial interference if they knowingly act contrary to a parenting plan or against the legal rights of a parent. Generally, custodial interference occurs when a parent deliberately chooses to interfere with the other parent’s custody rights.

This is a common source of contention in shared custody cases and can result in criminal charges. Once custody orders are in place, they are legally binding and enforceable.

When Can You Claim Custodial Interference?

Custodial interference can only be claimed if there are court orders in place regarding custody. If parenting time and legal decision-making rights have not been officially ordered by the courts, then there are no orders being broken. This means if your case is still pending in the court, then there are no real legal actions you can take until the court signs the orders.

Common Instances of Custodial Interference Include

  • Refusing to bring a child to the other parent for their scheduled parenting time
  • Visiting the child when the other parents has company, without permission
  • Failing to return the child in a timely manner (i.e. keeping the child past the allotted time)
  • Limiting contact with the other parent (no phone calls, letters, skype, etc.)
  • Enticing the child away from the parent with custody
  • Taking the child before court orders are in place
  • Taking the child when it is not their scheduled time according to the parenting plan

These are the most common forms of custodial interference, but because parenting plans are customizable and individually unique, additional forms of custodial interference can occur. If you believe that you are experiencing custodial interference, speak with a family law attorney to determine if your rights are being disrupted.

If your child was born out of wedlock, the mother has custodial rights until the court order is in place. Any actions taken against the mother or child until the court order are enforceable by law and will have criminal repercussions.

What to do if the Other Parent is Interfering with Custody

Custodial interference can be common in contentious custody agreements. If a court order is in place, you have the right to call the police if the other parent is not adhering to the parenting plan and report the actions to the courts.

Small instances of interference will likely result in a warning from the police and the enforcement of the court ordered parenting plan. If the parents continue to interfere, the police will have record of the continued behavior and can arrest the party at fault.

Courts prefer if parents can settle their parenting issues on their own and abide by the parenting plan, but this is not always the case. If the other parent continuously breaks the parenting agreement, you have the right to petition for a change in the custody agreement. If the court determines that the other parent was knowingly committing custodial interference, they have the power to alter the parenting plan.

You can petition for the following changes in a parenting plan if the other parent is committing custodial interference:

  • New orders and rules for visitation
  • New parenting schedule
  • Make-up visitation time
  • Family therapy or mediation

In severe cases of custodial interference the court can grant petitions for the following changes to a parenting plan:

  • Transfers at a neutral location (or police station)
  • Supervised visits (third party supervision)
  • Restriction or loss of visitation rights or custody
  • Fines and penalties
  • Criminal penalties

Consulting with a skilled custody lawyer is recommended if you are dealing with custodial interference issues in order to ensure the safety of you and your child, and to make sure the court is aware of their actions. An experienced attorney will know which actions can warrant changes in custody and can recommend the best course of action.

Penalties for Custodial Interference

Because custody is a court ordered agreement, breaches to this agreement are enforceable by law. When children are involved, the court system has severe penalties for actions against their best interest. According to ARS 13-1302, the following penalties apply for custodial interference:

  • Interference by a non-parent: Class 4 Felony
  • If the child is voluntarily returned within 48 hours and is unharmed: Class 1 Misdemeanor
  • If the child is taken out of state: Class 4 or Class 6 Felony depending on the circumstances and parenting agreement

The penalties for custodial interference are harsh and should not be taken lightly. Criminal charges are generally given only in extreme circumstances. The first form of penalty for custodial interference will likely be a loss in parenting rights.

The court has the discretion to alter or withdraw rights to parenting time and legal decision-making. The child’s best interest is always of the utmost importance to the court, so if a parent acts contrary to the best interest of the child, there will be repercussions.

Exemptions to Custodial Interference Laws

In certain circumstances, the court will allow a parent to not adhere to the court ordered parenting plan. A court will not consider any action for custodial interference if the following apply:

  • Parent is protecting the child from harm
  • Previously agreed upon disruptions to the parenting plan
  • Events outside of the parent’s control (e.g., traffic, bad weather, car issues, etc.)

Custodial interference can be inconvenient and infuriating, but the court is on your side to protect your rights. The courts will not allow a parent to continue to keep breaking a court ordered parenting agreement. The safety and well-being of your child is of upmost importance and your concerns will not be taken lightly.

How JacksonWhite Law Can Help

If you are dealing with a difficult custody situation, there are actions you can take to ensure the parenting plan is followed. Hiring a demonstrated custody lawyer may be necessary if you are dealing with custodial interference. A legal professional will be able to guide you through the situation and ensure that you and your child are protected. If you are looking for an Arizona custodial interference attorney, contact us today.

Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.

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