Allegations of Kidnapping and Enforcing Parenting Time
Disputes over adhering to the parenting time schedule, which is set out in the parenting plan, can easily and understandably become quickly heated. Parents have a lot at stake, and may not think the current arrangement is fair. Courts favor giving equal parental responsibility in cases involving timesharing, but this rarely results in each parent receiving the same amount of parenting time. One parent is usually the primary caregiver, and this person frequently receives the greater share of parenting time. When parents have serious and protracted disagreements about child-related issues, each parent may become resistant to following the parenting plan. A possible result of this resistance can be the primary caregiver fearing potential kidnapping by the other parent, and deciding to withhold parenting time from the other party as a preventative measure. The other parent, in response, may withhold support, and seek court enforcement of his/her right to see the child. Both actions bring the possibility of significant consequences, and such circumstances should be discussed with a family law attorney. A former attorney and his ex-wife have been in a 14-year court battle over child custody issues that include allegations of kidnapping and interference with custodial rights. A discussion of what a parent can do if the potential for kidnapping by the other parent exists, as well as how courts will enforce the denial of parenting time, will follow below.
Risk of Violating the Parenting Plan
Parents generally have the right to see, communicate with, and know about their children unless a court order says otherwise. Parenting plans effectively limit when and where parents can see their children, and the time-sharing schedule outlines when this interaction will occur. Thus, parents subject to parenting plans do not have free reign to take their children whenever they desire. As a result, if a parent has a legitimate suspicion, verifiable by evidence, that the other parent plans to violate the terms of the parenting plan by taking the child out of the state or country or concealing the child’s location, he/she can petition the court to take preventative action to block this possibility. Courts have wide discretion to prevent parental kidnapping, but some of the most common prohibitions which can be imposed include:
- requiring written permission from both parents, or a court order, before the child can be removed from the state or country;
- requiring the child’s passport be surrendered to the court or the petitioner’s attorney;
- requiring the parent suspected of planning an abduction to post a bond with the court as a financial deterrent;
- blocking the parent from removing the child from school or approaching the child outside of the designated times and locations; and
- requiring a parent to provide travel itineraries, copies of travel documents, and ways to contact the child if traveling outside the designated geographic area.
Enforcing Parenting Time
On the other hand, if a parent chooses not to follow the time-sharing schedule without sufficient cause, this is called interference with custodial rights, and subjects the non-compliant parent to potential sanctions by a court. Additionally, failure to pay child support is not a sufficient cause to withhold parenting time, and a court can impose any of the following penalties when the affected parent asks for enforcement of his/her parental rights:
- give the parent wrongfully denied parenting time extra time with the child at a time convenient to that parent;
- order the non-compliant parent to pay the attorney’s fees and court costs of the non-offending parent;
- order the non-compliant parent to complete community service; and
- modify the parenting plan in favor of the wrongfully-denied parent if it is in the best interests of the child to so.
Get Legal Advice
Timesharing disputes are critical matters that call for a quick resolution, if possible. If you have questions or concerns about the terms of timesharing with your ex-spouse or partner, you need a family law attorney looking out for your best interests and your family’s. Attorney Joyce A. Julian, P.A. understands how sensitive these issues are, and will work to obtain the best possible outcome for your family. If you live in the Fort Lauderdale area, contact the office to schedule a free initial consultation.