Child custody disputes can be a serious matter due to the emotional and financial investments that parents make for their children. Sometimes, a disgruntled parent will resort to illegal behavior to take matters into their own hands, rather than scheduling a custody hearing. However, this is a terrible idea because there are serious consequences for violating custody orders.
Local news for the Tampa area reported on a custody dispute that turned criminal when one of the parents attempted to illegally take his children back.
Father forcefully takes his children back
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office responded to a home on Jackson Springs Road just west of Tampa, after a 34 year old male suspect broke in and took an 8 year old and a 10 month old child with him. Police believe he broke into the home and pushed at least one person out of the way to get to the children. Both of the abductees are, in fact, his biological children.
A report was issued by law enforcement that the children were found safe two days later, but no further details were released to the media and the suspect was still on the run. They believe he was driving a white Cadillac with Georgia license plates. Police thought that he was trying to drive back to the area of Tifton County, Georgia. The suspect will be charged with interference with child custody and burglary with battery if he is apprehended.
Custody laws in Florida
The state of Florida takes into consideration the best interests of the child when determining whether one parent may be granted more custody time, or time-sharing, under a shared parenting plan. This can be frustrating to some parents if one of them receives custody a vast majority of the time each time and the non-custodial parent must pay significant amounts of child support.
Judges have a significant amount of discretion when making custody determinations, but usually they look for stability, a parent without financial or substance abuse problems, and an environment that will allow for the child to have their educational and healthcare needs met. If the child has any special needs, such as, medical issues or alternative schooling arrangements, these also must be considered along with any associated expenses. In some cases, grandparents or other relatives may petition for custody if one or both parents are not available or are unfit to parent.
How to prepare for the custody hearing and arguments from the other parent
After speaking with a family law attorney, it is possible to present yourself and your personal situation to a judge in a favorable manner. This should help to produce a good result, but keep in mind that the other parent will normally have a custody lawyer advocating on their behalf as well. As a strategic matter, problems with substance abuse, criminal charges, and unemployment may be brought up by one party to make the other parent appear as if they will not take care of their children properly.
Making changes to a shared parenting plan
If one parent is not happy with the custody arrangement, they will need to schedule a new hearing and bring evidence of some kind of substantial change in circumstances that would warrant different custody arrangements. Parents may also be able to come to an agreement regarding a plan that works for both of them and present it to the court.
Judicial orders must be followed
Until custody arrangements are changed by a judge, it is important to stick to the parenting plan in place rather than trying to deviate from the plan without proper legal authority to do so. There can be sanctions, including contempt of court and criminal charges, for not following a judge’s order. The interference with custody charge mentioned in the news story above is a third degree felony. All felonies are punishable by incarceration of up to five years at a state prison.
There are very few legal defenses to violating a custody order. Merely being disappointed with the terms of the parenting plan is not a sufficient enough reason to violate the order. It is best to consult with your attorney first if you believe there may be a serious reason to deviate from the custody order, otherwise there is the risk of criminal charges.
Talk to a local lawyer before a custody dispute
To get help with child custody, divorces, alimony, and related family law issues, contact Yeazell and Sweet. The firm serves the Tampa area with excellent legal representation.