One of every parent’s greatest fears is the kidnapping of your child. Many parents, may worry even more about parental child abduction.
In 2021, family members abducted 1,385 American children. A parent or guardian committed 519 or 21.50 percent of these kidnappings. Other relatives took 290 or 12.01 percent of the minors.
The good news is that 1,116 of these children were found and returned to their custodial parent. Are you unsure about what constitutes a parental child abduction case? Keep reading to learn more about when you can take action if you suspect parental kidnapping.
Florida’s Definition of Parental Kidnapping
If you live in Florida, and your child is subject to a court-ordered custody agreement, know the law. The 2021 Florida Statutes Section 787.01 outlines the legal definition of kidnapping.
It means imprisoning, taking, or confining someone against their will without legal authority. The kidnapping also involves threatening, secret, or forcible actions. It includes holding a child under the age of 13 against their will and without parental consent.
Florida Child Custody Statute 61.13001 addresses the relocation of a child by a parent. “Parent” means someone named on the birth certificate with child access or time-sharing. It may also mean a person with a written agreement or court order with court-enforced rules.
Florida defines “relocation” as moving the person’s principal residence. This occurs after the latest written agreement for child time-sharing. It may also take place while an action to create or modify time-sharing is still pending.
The relocation must last for at least 60 consecutive days. It also has to be at least 50 miles from the established residence. Temporary moves for the child’s healthcare, education, or vacation don’t qualify.
Parental kidnapping usually involves situations where there’s a custody agreement between the parents. These cases become complicated due to the agreement’s specifications and different state rules.
Prior to relocation, the court requires the parent to gain approval from a judge or their ex. If the rules of law aren’t met, the court may order the child’s return and reassess custody arrangements.
Types Of Abduction
Child kidnapping may involve different factors. Each type of abduction carries different potential risks.
Transporting the Child to Another State
In some states, it’s only parental kidnapping if there’s a violation of the legal custody agreement. Other states define kidnapping only when the parent conceals the child’s location. For cases still determining paternity, the male partner can’t take the child.
Law enforcement agencies will investigate the parent’s intentions. Do they plan to only remain out of state for a few days? Or are they planning to keep the child from the other parent?
Moving the Child from Their Habitually Residential Country
The legal term, “habitual resident” refers to the country where a person spends most of their time. They’ve established a permanent or habitual center of interest.
Many of these cases involve multinational couples. The primary caregiver, usually the mother, commits about 75 percent of parental international child abductions. They often wish to take their children back to their original country.
The Hague Convention on Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty that offers resources. Its goal is to protect children wrongfully taken and held across international borders. Yet, the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference has no legal authority.
Moving to Another State
First, does your custody agreement stipulate that the child can’t be moved out of state? If so, one parent can’t move the child without the other’s consent.
There are times when one parent must relocate to another state. This could be for job requirements or other reasons. In this case, the custody agreement needs amending to meet equitable child sharing requirements.
Risk Factors for Parental Child Abduction
Volatile relationships may lead a parent to take the child. They may fear that they’ll lose visitation or custody.
Often the abductor has a history of substance abuse, violence, or a criminal record. Poor impulse control may result in a kidnapping to punish the other parent.
In other cases, they may believe that their child is at risk for neglect or abuse. This action is taken to protect their child. Sometimes, the abductor believes the kidnapping will force a marital reconciliation.
Signs of a possible impending abduction may include:
- Asking the school for the child’s birth certificate
- Getting copies of the child’s medical record
- Applying for passports
- Resigning from their job
- Taking actions associated with relocating
Individuals who’ve threatened abduction or have done so in the past represent a higher risk. Parents who are citizens of another country must also be considered a danger.
What to Do If You Suspect Parental Child Abduction?
If you believe your child is the victim of a kidnapping, don’t wait. Notify law enforcement as soon as you become suspicious. This includes if their non-custodial parent takes them, and you don’t know where they are.
FBI field offices conduct an evaluation and, if warranted, open an investigation immediately. Contact your lawyer who has handled your custody agreement for support and advice.
Provide photos of your child and all information you have about your ex to the authorities. Also, give the law enforcement agencies a copy of your custody agreement. If your ex took your child out of state, the other state’s law needs validating.
Continually update the investigating agencies and your lawyer with any information you glean. For example, if your ex-spouse contacts you or someone else. If you find out where your child is, call law enforcement to help retrieve them.
Discuss filing charges with your lawyer. This can include an Interference with Custody claim.
Ask your attorney about petitioning the court to gain sole custody of your child. You may also discuss stopping visitation rights and if you need a restraining order.
Are You Looking for the Best Law Firm in Florida?
Have you and your child(ren) experienced parental child abduction? Protect your family by calling the Boyer Law Firm, P.L.
Our expert team handles parental child kidnapping including interstate and internationally. We focus on providing clarity, commitment, and state-of-the-art technology. This ensures optimal management of your case.
The Boyer attorneys also work with cases involving intellectual property and international law. We’ll take care of family law issues, estate planning, and probate and inheritance matters.
Schedule a case consultation today to get help resolving legal issues.