Parental Abduction and International Travel

With the Holidays descending on us, international travel is on many people’s minds for a relaxing vacation. When parents are married, international travel is fun and leisurely and a way to bond together. However, international travel can become a nightmare when parents are divorced and one of the parents believes the other may be trying to abduct the child(ren) and take them out of the country inorder to avoid following the co-parenting custody agreement. Obeying co-parenting custody arrangements is crucial to a balanced and drama-free life. If your ex-spouse is not following the arrangements, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

Court Orders to Prevent Parental Abduction in Florida

Florida state laws and federal laws include regulations to make sure that it is difficult for a parent to abduct his or her own child and take the child out of the country. When a parent has substantial evidence that the other parent may violate the co-parenting plan and remove the child from the country, a court may order:

  • That a parent is not permitted to remove the child from the state without notarized consent from both parents;
  • That a parent cannot remove the child from the country without notarized consent from both parents;
  • That a parent may not take the child to any country that is not a signatory or has not ratified the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, unless consent is given; and/or
  • That a parent must surrender the child’s passport or place the child’s name on the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program of the United States Department of State.

The actions of the court will help to prevent a parent from abducting his or her child in order to gain full custody and circumvent the co-parenting arrangement approved by the court. Additionally, if the court orders any, some, or all of the above-mentioned actions, the parent is also forbidden from requesting a new or replacement passport or visa. The court may require the parent to post bond or security that would be a financial deterrent to the abduction of the child and may be used in the recovery of the child, as well as attorney’s fees in related proceedings.

Factors a Court Considers When Requiring a Parent to Post Bond or Security

When a parent is requested to post bond or security, the court will make a determination on that amount depending on the following factors:

  • The parent has previously attempted to remove the child from Florida or any other state in violation of the parenting plan;
  • The extent to which the parent has familial and communal ties to Florida or to other states or countries, including whether the child is a dual citizen in another country;
  • The financial ties to the remain in Florida or any financial incentives to relocate;
  • The parent has a history of domestic violence and/or a criminal record;
  • The parent has multiple names in an attempt to deceive or defraud;
  • The parent has a mental health disorder that he/she has been diagnosed with; and
  • Any other conduct that would lead the court to believe there is a risk of abduction.
The Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program Guide to Signs Before Abduction

According to the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program, a parent who has reason to believe that the other parent may try to remove his/her child from the country should look for the following signs that might indicate a real threat to the child:

  • Whether the other parent has made sudden life changes such as quitting a job, closing out a bank account, paying off debts, selling a home, and otherwise, taking actions that appear to remove any ties of the parent to the community and the country at large; and
  • If the other parent is a citizen of another country, the parent should check whether or not the other parent has filed for dual nationality, or has taken steps to otherwise naturalize the child to the other country.

Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.