The Penalties for Violating a California Custody Order

California child custody orders are important. Real important. In other words, they are not just recommendations from a court as to how parents should share their child or children. If it’s not your turn to have the kid(s), but you take them anyway, you could be convicted of the felony offense of child abduction, namely Penal Code section 278.5, subd. (a).

This is what happened to a woman named Shahrzad. She and her husband were separated and there was an active family law case where custody orders had already been made. On December 10, 2015, Shahrzad went to the husband’s residence and, unbeknownst to him, she took the children’s passports from a drawer in his room.

The 15th was the husband’s day with the kids and their nanny went to school to pick them up when classes were done. However, Shahrzad also was at the school and told the nanny that she and the children were going shopping to buy a gift for the husband. The wife then took the children and could not be reached for two days. She turned off her phone and the police checked her residence but found no one home. Two days later, Sharzad was arrested at a different residence.

The wife was convicted of two felony violations of child abduction. Besides whatever criminal punishment the wife received (the maximum punishment is apparently three years in state prison), she had more problems. That’s because she was a lawyer. The State Bar Court found that Shahrzad violated a statute, rule, or court order that would warrant the imposition of discipline. Accordingly, the State Bar Court judge, the Hon. Donald F. Miles, who was faced with the additional problem that Shahrzad failed to participate either in person or through counsel in the hearing before him, recommended that the attorney be disbarred from the practice of law in the State of California.

On June 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court ordered the disbarment.