What is Considered Parental Kidnapping in Florida?
The term parental kidnapping seems like it could be an oxymoron, but it is a real issue some parents have to contend with during a divorce or other related family law matter. While some parents do intentionally take their child without permission, there are other situations where one parent might be confused about visitation schedules, especially when circumstances have recently changed. You do not want to be accused of kidnapping your own child, so it’s important to thoroughly understand your visitation agreement and existing custody order.
Florida Law on Kidnapping
Florida statutes include custody offenses with kidnapping and luring or enticing a child under the same chapter. The act of kidnapping is when you secretly or forcibly threaten or act against someone by abducting, confining, or imprisoning them against their will. It must be done without lawful authority and there must be an intent to:
- Commit or enable a felony;
- Terrorize someone or inflict bodily harm;
- Hold someone hostage or for a ransom/reward; or
- Interfere with political function or performance of a government, which can include confinement of a child under 13 years old if there is no parental or guardian consent.
Anyone charged with kidnapping is facing a first-degree felony, which can carry a hefty prison sentence. Allegations of child abuse make it a more serious offense as well.
With parental kidnapping, there isn’t necessarily an intent to solicit a ransom, hold them hostage, or terrorize them. However parental kidnapping is still illegal. These are typically cases where one parent won’t let the other see the children or let them go on a vacation, etc. It can also involve cases where one parent takes the child out of the jurisdiction without permission or notice. There are extenuating circumstances where parental kidnapping might be allowed — if one parent is being abusive or exposes your child to something that could be dangerous or harmful.
Child Abduction Protection Act
When there is concern one parent might violate a parenting plan and remove a child from the jurisdiction, the Child Abduction Protection Act grants the courts additional options. When parents are entering a parenting plan, the court can assess certain factors that may cause the judge to want to limit that parent’s time with the child. These factors might include past actions or things that show the other parent might leave the allowed area.
A judge can consider where the parent might go to help decide what deterrents to order. Deterrents can include orders that prohibit certain actions or the need to post a bond. The court can dictate a parent cannot travel anywhere with the child without notarized written permission from both parents or a court order, or that a parent cannot take the child to any country that is not a member of the Hague Convention unless the other parent agrees in writing. Another option is to have the child’s passport surrendered and have his or her name added to the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program.
Retaining a Florida Family Law Attorney
If you are going through child custody matters or are concerned your ex is preparing to take your child out of Florida, you need to speak with a skilled Florida child custody attorney right away. Contact the Law Offices of Schwartz | White at 561-391-9943 to schedule a consultation.