The simple answer to the question is, “Yes, you can kidnap your own child.” By doing so, you could lose your parental rights.
Abduction by parents is a serious problem in the United States. Kidnapping or abduction of your child is the taking, concealment, or retention of your child by you or another person on your behalf. The intent is to deny the child’s other parent visitation or parental rights.
You do not need to be under a court order to be guilty of kidnapping your child. Florida views both parents as having equal parental rights until those rights are modified by a court other.
Moving a child more than 50 miles away from the child’s home could be considered an abduction if the parent does not obtain court approval for the move. Therefore, parents must be very careful when relocating with their child to avoid allegations of parental kidnapping.
Florida Laws to Reduce the Risk of Abduction by Parents
Florida Statute 61.45 contains several provisions intended to make it more difficult for a parent to abduct a child. If the court finds substantial evidence that a party may violate the court-ordered parenting plan by removing the child, the court may take one or more actions to protect the child from being moved and/or concealed by a parent.
Some of the actions that a court might take include, but are not limited to:
Require a parent to have written, notarized permission or a court order to remove the child from the state or country;
Require the parent to surrender the child’s passport;
Place the child’s name on the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program with the United States Department of State;
Require the parent to surrender any foreign passport issued in the child’s name or a passport issued in the parent and child’s name jointly;
Order that the parent may not apply for a replacement or new passport for the child;
Require the posting of a bond or other security;
Order various travel restrictions and requirements for traveling with the child outside of a designated geographic location.
The court may take additional actions to those listed above under the statute if the judge believes certain actions are necessary to protect the child from being abducted.
In addition to Florida custody laws, there are also several federal and state parental kidnapping laws to protect children. In many cases, federal and state laws carry criminal penalties for parental kidnapping. A parent could face losing parental rights through the family court, but also face lengthy prison sentences and fines for taking a child without court permission.
What Happens if I Need to Relocate With My Child?
If you need to relocate with your child, there is a process that you must go through in the courts to modify your existing custody order. Florida’s relocation statute applies whenever a parent wishes to move a child more than 50 miles from their existing home. There are exceptions.
Temporary moves of less than 60 days may not violate the relocation statute. Also, there are exceptions for education, vacation, and health care services. However, you should talk with your lawyer before moving with your child to avoid problems.
Even if your child’s other parent agrees to the move, you must still go through the court system before relocating your child. If both parents agree, the parents file a written agreement with a time-sharing schedule with the court. The court approves the agreement if neither parent files a request for hearing within ten days.
If the parents do not agree, a formal court proceeding is necessary to decide relocation cases. A Florida child relocation attorney files a petition with the court seeking permission for you and your child to move. Your child’s other parent receives a copy of the petition, and the court schedules a hearing.
Both parents appear and present their case for or against the move. The judge considers several factors to determine if the move is in the child’s best interest. Factors the judge may consider in a child relocation case include:
The age of the child;
The child’s development stage;
The parent-child relationship with both parents;
The needs of the child;
The reason for the move;
The child’s preference;
The effect that the move may have on the child’s development; and
Other factors that the judge deems relevant to determining what is in the child’s best interest.
If the judge approves the relocation request, the court modifies the existing custody order and parenting plan.
Family Law Matters Related to Children are Difficult
Matters related to a parenting plan can be the most challenging issues to resolve during a divorce. It can be tempting for a parent to take a child without permission to avoid losing some or all parental rights. There are many reasons why a parent might kidnap a child.
Immediate action can help increase the chance the child is located. The sooner a parent contacts the police and their lawyer, the better chance the parent has of getting their child back.