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When Parents Violate Child Custody Orders

Custody disputes after divorce can be difficult and sometimes even turn into criminal acts. Stories of parents with joint custody agreements requesting to take the children for a few extra days, and then disappearing, are not infrequent. These battles can be long and drawn out, resulting in criminal charges, or even minor, involving small delays in returning children to their custodial parent after a visit which can affect future custody arrangements and rights.

Whatever the circumstances surrounding child custody arrangements, it is always better to seek the advice of an experienced family attorney in order to obtain a better custody arrangement for yourself, rather than take matters into your own hands.

Florida Law

Florida law states that anyone who knowingly or recklessly takes or entices a minor from their custodial parent or guardian commits interference with custody — including a parent — and is guilty of a third degree felony.

Florida does provide for some defenses, however, such as:

  • Having reasonable cause to believe that these actions (taking the child) were necessary to protect the minor from danger to their welfare;
  • Being the victim of domestic violence or having reasonable belief that they would be the victim of domestic violence and the action (taking the child) was necessary to protect themselves or the minor; or
  • The minor themselves instigated the action and there was no intention to commit a criminal offense.

Alternatives

Speaking with an attorney to preserve your rights and protect your loved ones is the best way to ensure that you are not in a position to either take your own child in violation of a court order, or have your child taken if you suspect that something could happen with the child’s other parent. Your attorney can assist you with other options, such as seeking emergency relief. If you feel threatened, you have the option of seeking an order of protection (or restraining order) and/or an emergency custody order from a judge.

Specifically, if the courts find evidence that establishes a credible risk of a child being removed, the courts may:

  • Order that a parent not remove a child from the state of Florida without the notarized written permission of both parents or an additional court order;
  • Order that a parent not be able to take a child to a country that has not adopted the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (unless the other parent agrees);
  • Require that a parent surrender the passport of a child (or place the child’s name in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program); and/or
  • Require that a parent post a bond or security in an amount sufficient to serve as a financial deterrent to abduction.

Seek Help from a Child Custody Attorney

If you are having issues with child custody problems, it is crucial that you seek assistance from an experienced attorney. Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. is a dedicated family law attorney who can assist you with any all problems related to divorce and child custody issues. Contact our office today; our Fort Lauderdale office serves clients in and around Boca Raton as well.

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