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Child custody: what is international parental kidnapping?

International parental kidnapping is a crime that can occur when parents in Florida are involved in a child custody dispute and the emotions of one of the parents clouds their judgment. It is defined in federal statute as the act of a parent that absconds with a child from the United States against the other parent's custodial rights. It is also defined as keeping a child in a different country than the U.S. against the custodial rights of the child's other parent.

Such scenarios typically play out when a married couple has a child in the U.S., and during a child custody dispute, one of the parents leaves the U.S. with the child with the expressed intent of curbing all contact that the other parent has with the child. If convicted, a parent can find themselves possibly facing up to three years in prison.

Our Florida residents may find it interesting to learn that instances of international parental kidnapping occur more commonly than they may think. An act of international parental kidnapping is not in the best interests of the child, and the child can suffer emotionally and psychologically if a parent abducts them.

When it comes to prosecuting cases of international parental kidnapping, it can be quite challenging due to the nature of the crime. Federal prosecutors' options are generally pretty limited in such cases. The parent charged with abducting the child can be investigated and prosecuted by the federal prosecutors, but due to jurisdictional realities they may have little if any power to compel foreign authorities to return the abducted child.

Generally, the U.S. Department of State facilitates the return of the child back to the U.S., and the local family law court addresses the child custody issues. These issues can get complex very quickly, so it may help to work with a family law attorney in such cases.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, "International Parental Kidnapping," Accessed Sept. 28, 2015

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