Your Ex-Spouse “Kidnaps” Your Child – Now What?


Custody disputes are some of the most emotionally charged and mentally- and physically draining contests that can erupt in any Florida family law case. When a child’s parents compete for as much time as possible with the child, the parents can engage in behaviors that are harmful to the child – and potentially illegal.

What is “Parental Kidnapping” in Florida?

In a divorce, paternity, or child custody proceeding, a court will almost invariably enter orders setting forth a parenting time plan that outlines the times and conditions under which each parent can exercise physical custody over the child and spend time with the child. However, just because such a plan exists does not mean that both parents will abide by it.

Florida Statute 787.03 makes it a crime for any person to interfere with a parent’s custody rights by detaining, concealing, or enticing the child away from one of the child’s parent with malicious intent. This can potentially cover situations such as:

  • Keeping the child with you at the conclusion of your allotted parenting time and not returning the child to the other parent in a timely manner;
  • Removing the child from the State of Florida without the knowledge of the other parent and with the intention of keeping the child’s whereabouts hidden from the other parent;
  • Encouraging the child not to visit with the other parent even though the other parent is lawfully entitled to parenting time with the child.

Interfering with custody is a third-degree felony, meaning a criminal conviction can be punished by a $5,000 fine and/or up to five years’ of imprisonment.

What Should I Do if My Child’s Other Parent Refuses to Follow a Parenting Plan or Share Custody?

If you believe your child’s other parent (or someone on his or her behalf, such as a grandparent or other relative or friend) is interfering with your custody rights – regardless of whether a formal parenting plan exists – do not sit idly by. You should:

  • Attempt to contact the other parent and document your communication with him or her. Perhaps the failure to return the child to you is a simple misunderstanding;
  • If you cannot communicate with the other parent or obtain information about your child, keep trying. In addition, after a reasonable time you may make a report with law enforcement about the situation;
  • Be certain to speak with your Florida family law attorney. Even if law enforcement takes no action, a violation of a court order such as a parenting plan is something most judges will not take lightly. Depending on the judge overseeing your case, the other parent may face consequences for any willful interference with your custody rights.

Contact a Florida Family Law Firm Today

If you are struggling with custody issues or any other family law issue in Florida, the assistance of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of your dispute. Contact the Law Offices of David L. Hirschberg, P.A. by phone at (561) 763-7622 or by contacting the firm online.

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