Child custody interference is a crime in Texas

Claudia has seen her son twice in nine months and she is still awaiting trial. (Photo: SBG San Antonio)

Contrary to what many think, obstruction of child visitation isn't just a civil matter, it's a crime.

A mother we will refer to only as Claudia to protect the identity of her sons, said history is repeating itself.

"I went from having a healthy relationship with loving a boy, two boys to having no visitation," Claudia said.

She began losing contact with her oldest son after one of his trips to California to visit his dad when he was a teenager. Claudia recalls one of her biggest heartbreaks when she flew to California to watch her son graduate and was uninvited at the last minute.

"My parents said just drive, we are going to go with you," Claudia said. "We are going to stay with you and they did that and I said, 'You know what? I need to go back around just to take a picture of any kid with a cap and gown at least to know that I saw him and I was here.'"

Two years later, Claudia worries she is on the verge of losing her relationship with her 13 year old son, who went to visit his dad in December and didn't come home as scheduled.

"He just wasn't returned, and this was very surprising because we had plans," Claudia recalled.

Shortly thereafter, an expensive and lengthy court process began in an attempt to try to enforce the legal court order.

Claudia has seen her son twice in nine months and she is still awaiting trial.

"They will tell me that it is a civil matter when is not a civil matter," Claudia said. "It is a criminal act to withhold a child, preventing the visitation with you."

Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood says these cases are not uncommon, also that there need to be changes made on both the civil and the criminal side. La Hood would like to see legislation that would allow for court appointed attorneys to represent parents who are being denied access to their own children.

Additionally he's challenging the next district attorney to facilitate enforcement of chapter 25.03 of the Texas penal code. It's something he said no other Bexar County DA has taken on.

"It's up to the DA's office to establish the fact that we are going to prosecute these cases," LaHood said. "This is a priority - or at least this is a case that we want to look at, so bring them to us."

Within the last month, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar included the statute in the daily bulletin.

"We put out - a 'did you know,' just reminding deputies that this law is on the books and if a situation comes up where this is a cause for concern, know the law and then follow it," Salazar said.

Steps like this could make all the difference, not just for parents, but more importantly for their kids.

"It's not about the custody thing, it's about the relationship," Claudia said.

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