PARENTAL INTERFERENCE WITH CHILD CUSTODY: What it is and how to deal with it
TUG OF WAR
When a parent interferes with the parent-child relationship, so much that the parent unilaterally decides to keep the child away from the other parent, in other words, disrupts the custody rights of the other parent. Parental interference generally is the term used after a divorce is finalized by the court as a Final Judgement of Dissolution of Marriage or after a paternity action. In extreme cases, the parent conceals the whereabouts of the child and those actions may lead to criminal charges.
Interference with custody orders can be a major challenge for parents litigating time sharing schedule and a parenting plan, and in the most extreme cases it may lead to criminal consequences. Not all custodial interference is a violation of a parenting plan or time sharing schedule. If a parent has a reasonable belief that they are protecting the child from danger, or bad weather prevents the child exchange, or an unexpected family emergency, i.e., death of a close relative, are a few examples.
There different types of custodial interference, here are a few examples:
- Refusing to release the child to the other parent for a scheduled visit
- Limiting the child's telephone contact with the other parent
- Failing to return the child on a timely basis (i.e., keeping the child past the time allotted under one parent's custodial rights)
- Enticing the child away from the parent with custody
- Visiting the child when the other parent is supposed to have custody
Keep in mind that under some circumstances, custodial interference is not a violation of the law. Such circumstances can include:
- Protecting a child from danger
- Events outside of a parent's control preventing timely transfer (e.g., bad weather)
- Previous agreements that disrupt custody arrangements (e.g., a trip or special event)
What You Can Do
A parent is entitled to report custodial interference to the court, as well as to law enforcement, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Common remedies involve petitioning the court to request relief such as:
- New, specific orders for visitation (to prevent future violations)
- Make-up visitation time
- Family therapy or mediation
When more severe intervention is required, a parent may request more significant relief from the court such as:
- Supervised visits by a third party
- Transfers at a neutral location
- Restrictions or loss of visitation or custody
- Fines and fees
Custodial interference is a crime in Florida and is a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5000.00. Furthermore, parents that physically take their children from the other parent may be charged with kidnapping as well, which is a first degree felony.
Custody battles are frustrating and are especially difficult for parents who try to do the right thing, and extremely distressing for the children who get pulled in different directions. Before you resort to a game of tug-of-war, consult with attorney Carmelina Marin of The Marin Law Firm, P.A., she practices in both family and criminal law.