Police in Massachusetts are searching for a Quincy-area mother for allegedly “kidnapping” her five children. Unfortunately, this mother is neither the first nor will she be the last parent to face accusations of “kidnapping” their own children. Although it may seem counterintuitive, Florida and other states allow a parent to be charged with kidnapping his or her own child. According to the U.S. Department of Justice and a 2002 study from its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, an estimated 203,900 children were the victims of parental kidnapping in 1999. Fifty-three percent of these children were abducted by their father, while 25 percent were abducted by their mother. Twenty-one percent were missing or gone for one month or longer.
What Constitutes Parental Kidnapping?
While some divorcing parents are able to put aside their differences and feelings for one another and cooperate for the benefit of their child or children, other parents use children as a means of controlling or punishing the other parent. In general and regardless of the reason, any attempt by one parent to deny the other parent reasonable parenting time with the childwithout either an emergency or court order can be considered “parental kidnapping.” Common parental kidnapping scenarios include:
- Failing to follow a court-ordered parenting plan by failing to return the child at the conclusion of the parent’s parenting time;
- Moving out of state (or to another country) with the child without the approval of the other parent and/or the court;
- In the absence of a court-approved parenting plan, refusing to allow the other parent to exercise reasonable parenting time with the child.
Not all actions by a parent that deprive the other parent of parenting time will result in criminal sanctions. For instance, a parent charged with parental kidnapping can show that he or she deprived the other parent of parenting time because doing so was necessary to protect the welfare of the child.
What Should I Do if I Believe the Other Parent Will “Kidnap” Our Child?
If you believe that the other parent is likely to abduct or kidnap your child, you must be proactive. You do not necessarily need to wait for the other parent to actually kidnap the child in order to act; however, you may find a court is not able to help you if there is no evidence a kidnapping is about to take place. For instance, the fact that the other parent has relatives that live in another country may not be enough to convince a court to enter protective orders or award you sole custody. Conversely, relatives who live in another country coupled with texts, e-mails, or phone messages in which the other parent threatens to take the child away can influence a court to take protective measures.
As with any other custody-related issue, an experienced Tampa divorce attorney is useful in ensuring the proper motions are timely filed and decided in order to protect your child. At the All Family Law Group, P.A., we are here to help you. Contact our offices in Tampa Bay at 813-321-3421 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+