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Parental Abduction Of Child

Rather than use the court system to work out custody disputes, a parent may resort to abducting or kidnapping her child. By abducting the child, she is assured of never obtaining legal custody of her child.

SIDEBAR: The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, a federal law, prevents an abducting parent from ever obtaining legal custody in another state where the court might be unaware that the child has been kidnapped. Under the Act, the court's order would be invalid.

Parental abduction of a child is a grave matter, and any parent who believes his child is at risk should take certain precautions, including:

  • notifying local law enforcement if your ex-spouse has threatened to abduct the child;
  • notifying school administrators and teachers, bus drivers, day care providers, neighbors and friends that your child may be at risk;
  • keeping recent photographs of your child, along with a current physical description;
  • maintaining current information on your ex-spouse: addresses and telephone numbers of friends, employers, former employers and places he or she frequents;
  • knowing your ex-spouses driver's license number and Social Security number (these are on the divorce decree); and
  • teaching your child his full name, address and telephone number and showing him how to use the phone (he should be aware he can dial 911 from any pay phone or cell phone).

TIP: Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678 or for more information on how to prevent parental abduction.

TIP: If you believe your child will be taken out of the country, his passport can be entered in the passport name-check system so that he cannot be removed from the United States. Contact the U.S. Department of State Passport Services at (202) 955-0231 as soon as your child is missing if he is at risk for an international abduction.

My ex-husband refused to return our children to me after a weekend visit. Is this an abduction even though I know the children's whereabouts?

Yes. Abduction is any act that keeps a child from her lawful custodian or a person with a legal right to visitation. It is not necessary that the child be hidden or concealed.

My husband and I are living apart and I want to take the children with me to another state. Since I am their mother and there is no custody order in place, is this an abduction?

Yes. Although you and your husband are not yet divorced, it is a crime to deny your husband access to the children. The fact that you are the mother of the children does not give you the right to obstruct their father's legal right to see them.

I believe allowing my son to return to his mother after his weekend visit to me would put him in danger. Can I be charged with abduction if I refuse to return him?

Yes. If you believe your son is in physical danger, you should contact the local police. Depending on the situation (for example, if criminal activities are ongoing at your ex-wife's home), the police may permit you to keep your son.

My ex-husband refuses to allow our children to visit me as required by the court. What do I do?

You must go to court and ask for a contempt hearing. If your husband refuses to follow the court's order, he will be held in contempt and could face time in jail. Additionally, you can insist local law enforcement arrest your ex-husband for abducting the children. If your ex-husband has fled with the children, a felony warrant will be issued for his arrest.

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