The life of a famous television actress brings to mind elegant turns on the red carpet and a privileged, jet-set lifestyle. But Kelly Rutherford, of Gossip Girl fame, lived every parent’s nightmare when a family court judge ordered her two minor children to live full-time in France, since their father was expelled from the United States.
The ruling in Rutherford’s case may seem rare, but too many parents face the prospect of being separated from their children by a border — court or no court. According to a U.S. State Department report, The Epidemic of Parental Child-Snatching, over 200 cases of parental kidnapping occur every day. What’s more, over 70 percent of parental kidnapping cases occur before a court has decided custody.
The best protection you can have against parental kidnapping is a court order. If your case is already before a family law judge, you and your attorney need to raise your concerns in court. A divorce court has grounds to issue a temporary custody determination when presented with evidence that the children are threatened with removal from the country.
If your spouse has threatened to remove the children in the past, you may have grounds for an injunction against domestic violence. "Domestic violence" includes kidnapping of a child by a household member. You can file a petition for injunction of protection against domestic violence if you have reasonable cause to believe there is imminent danger that your spouse will kidnap your child. This petition can be filed even if you haven’t filed for divorce.
If a court finds that an emergency exists, it may issue a temporary order “ex parte,” without an appearance by your spouse, granting you exclusive possession of the children. Courts will likely take any threats to kidnap the children extremely seriously. As a California Court said, “a threatened abduction of the child represents an emergency type situation since it threatens the welfare of the child.”
The best thing you can do to protect your children and yourself is to work with a Pinellas County attorneywho is board-certified in marital and family law with the Florida Bar and who is extremely experienced in this area.