Parental Kidnapping and Florida Law

Every now and then, a story pops up where one parent leaves Florida and the United States with a child, and the other parent is stuck, not knowing where his or her child is. Luckily there are some protections which can assist. Before going into some details of those protections, take the story of a Pompano Beach, FL native that was taken by her mother to Dubai over a year ago.

Since August 2010, Christopher Dahm has been fighting to have his daughter returned to the United States. In fact, his daughter was even stopped from being able to fly out of the Abu Dhabi International Airport. The girl’s mother and grandparents have been indicted in a U.S. federal court charge of international parental kidnapping. The UAE are also investigating this charge. The mother is allegedly in violation of a marital settlement agreement that included a provision that the child is not to be taken outside of the United States. This woman faces up to three years in prison in the United States – if she ever makes it back here.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has sent formal extradition requests to the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi. However, the UAE does not have a formal extradition treaty with the US and is not a signatory to Hague Convention. The Hague Convention has a provision that outlines procedures for returning children that are abducted by a parent or any individual and taken across international borders. Even though Mr. Dahm has been awarded sole parental responsibility and timesharing with his daughter, without a firm procedure to enforce the Florida order, there is trouble enforcing the order. The UAE has gone forward to engage in custody proceedings within that country, so if the mother is awarded custody, the UAE will allow the daughter to stay with her. However, she may not be able to travel, due to INTERPOL warrants connected with the kidnapping charge.

This post is not meant to alarm anyone. Over 80 countries have ratified the pertinent provisions of this Hague Convention document. If a child is taken out of the state of Florida and particularly out of the country, the child is generally protected. There is a reason why in order to relocate, a parent must ask leave of court. It is nearly impossible to co-parent with parents living hundreds of miles apart, if not thousand. Documents like the Hague Convention are in place to not only return children home, but the penalize parents that violate court order. Hopefully, Mr. Dahm’s extradition requests work out and his daughter is returned to him safely.