Divorce proceedings are usually emotional for the parties involved. It is not easy for a couple who at one point was in love with each other to come to terms that their marriage may be over. This is tough when the marriage ends amicably but becomes even more difficult when there is jealousy or hurt feelings involved. Add to the mix of child custody issues, it might lead one parent to act in an irrational behavior such as kidnapping their child so as not to lose custodial rights. In this article, we will discuss what can happen if child custody interference occurs.

What Is The Definition Of Child Custody Interference?

Florida Statute 787.03 defines child custody interference as when a person impedes on the right of a parent or legal guardian’s custodial right to a child who is under the age of 18 or no emancipated.

Criminal Or Civil

Child custody interference is a crime under Florida law. However, it may also have civil implications, such as in divorce proceedings.

Is Child Custody Interference Only Applicable To Strangers?

No, anybody can commit child custody interference, including the other parent or legal guardian. According to Florida Statute 787.03(2), a parent commits child custody interference when they maliciously interfere with the other parent’s custodial right, which was either court-ordered, agreed to in a divorce, or implied under the law.

Do Strangers Have The Same Standard As A Parent Under Child Custody Interference?

Under Florida law, for a parent to face charges of child custody interference, they must be acting with malicious intent. In addition, for a stranger to face charges of child custody interference, the parent(s) must show that they acted unlawfully in depriving one parent of their legal custodial rights to a minor child.


Under Florida law, the punishment for child custody interference is a felony with up to five years of prison, five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine. If the offender is a parent, they might permanently lose custody rights to the child.


Florida uses the best interest of the child standard when dealing with minor children. As such, a defense showing that the offender was acting in the best interest of the child may also serve as a defense for child custody interference charges. The most common defenses are as follows:

Child welfare defense

This is a defense that argues the offender acted out of concern for the child. That the offender reasonably believed the child faced danger by remaining with the custodial parent. For example, a grandparent removes their minor grandchild from their home because it is a hazardous environment.

Domestic violence defense

This is a defense where the offender, the child, or both were victims in a domestic violence situation, and they acted in a way to prevent the domestic violence from being ongoing. For example, a mother runs away with their child to a shelter since the father is abusing them both.

Instigation defense

This is a defense when the child tricks the offender into believing that the child was facing eminent danger. For example, suppose a child complains to a friend’s parent that they are being abused. Their friend’s parent refuses to allow the child to return home, despite there being no abuse in actuality.

Contact Thompson Law

Child custody issues are complex and, if not handled correctly, can have criminal repercussions. Contact Thompson Law, and our experienced attorneys will advise you on the best options to protect the child and yourself.