A recent news story serves as an example to parents across the nation of how not to approach child custody disputes. The case began as a difference of opinion between a 7-year-old girl’s parents as to with whom she should reside, and ended with the felony arrest of the child’s father. Child custody matters are highly emotional, and while most Florida parents would never go to the same lengths as this man, many will make less dramatic mistakes when fighting for the right to parent and care for their children.
The child’s parents did not have a custody order or agreement in place at the beginning of the incident. The little girl’s father took her on an out-of-state trip with the consent of her mother. When the time came to bring the girl home, however, he contacted the mother and informed her that he would be keeping his daughter with him. That led the mother to file custody paperwork, and the father was sent notice that he had 20 days to object. It is unclear whether he was served with those papers, but he did not file an answer with the court.
That led the court to award custody to the mother, and to subsequently issue a felony arrest warrant for the father after he refused to bring his daughter back to her state of residence. In fact, he traveled across the country with the child. During the course of these events, a deputy was able to locate the man and his little girl to serve child support papers, and he interacted with the child. He reported that the child seemed safe and happy and was in no immediate danger under her father’s care.
Once the felony warrant was issued, police arrested the man and took the child into protective custody until she could be returned to her mother’s care. There is no indication that the father had done anything to place his daughter in harm’s way, or that he had any intention other than to keep her in his care. While virtually any Florida parent can understand the love that a parent has for a child, this was certainly not the right way to go about solving a child custody dispute. In fact, the man may have permanently jeopardized his ability to play an active role in the little girl’s life in the future.
Source: newswest9.com, “West coast search ends in Texoma”, Samantha Forester, July 22, 2016