In 2020, sadly there were 29,859 cases of missing children reported in the United States. Of those cases, 4.8% were family abductions such as parental kidnapping. More startling is that 63% of all Amber alerts issued by police were because of parental child abduction cases.
So, when does spending time with your child change to a parental child abduction?
If you’re involved in a complicated custody situation, you might worry about parental kidnapping by the other parent.
When does the law consider it to be kidnapping your own child? Most importantly, how can you avoid getting accused of child abduction by the other parent when you have parenting time with your child?
Read on to learn more about the laws and complexities related to parental kidnapping.
What Is Parental Kidnapping?
The idea of parental kidnapping feels so aggressive and unpleasant. Yet, if you’re involved in a contentious co-parenting situation, you may worry about the possibility of the other parent kidnapping your child.
Parental kidnapping is defined as the act of taking a child without the consent of the other parent. This becomes complicated depending on if there’s a custody agreement in place between the two parents.
If there is a custody agreement in place, parent kidnapping could happen when one parent violates the agreement and takes the child without the other’s permission.
If there isn’t a custody agreement in place, one parent could leave and take the child without the consent or agreement of the other parent.
Taking the Child Out of State
One concern is that one parent will take the child out of state with the consent of the other parent. You might consider this parental kidnapping.
The law also calls parental kidnapping:
- Custodial interference
- Child concealment
- Parental abduction
This becomes complicated for several reasons. First, is there a custody agreement in place and how does it spell out the time each parent gets with the child?
The laws also vary greatly from state to state.
Some states may consider it parental kidnapping if the parent takes the child out of state only if it somehow violates the legal custody agreement. It might also be considered parental kidnapping if the custody agreement is pending and not in place yet.
In other states, it might not be considered illegal to remove the child from the state unless the parent doing it actively works to cancel the location of the child.
Sometimes parental child abduction can also come into play if the parental identity of the father has yet to be determined legally.
Finally, most law enforcement will look at the act of removing the child from the state and consider whether the parent took the child out of state for a few days versus leaving the state with the intention of staying away and keeping the child from the other parent.
Taking the Child Out of the Country
Following the breakdown of a multinational relationship, sometimes one parent wishes to return to their home country. At least 75% of International Parental Child Abductions involve a primary caregiver (usually the mother) taking her child(ren) with her back to her home country and the father applying to have the child(ren) returned to the country where they are ‘Habitually Resident.’
In international child custody issues such as removing a child to another country, multinational treaties such as the Hague Convention on Child Abduction can be helpful. This treaty establishes proceedings for the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed or kept away from their home country. At this time, there are 98 partnering nations in the Hague Convention. However, the membership continues to grow every year, with the latest entry being Seychelles in September of 2021.
Moving Out of State
Moving out of state with a child is also a complicated issue and will depend on several factors.
The custody agreement you have may prevent one parent from moving out of state with the child through the language in the agreement.
If a parent opts to move out of state with a child without the expressed consent of the other parent, it can be considered parental kidnapping.
This can get complicated if a parent needs to move for a job relocation. You want the courts involved as quickly as possible to prevent the other parent from taking the child and moving out of state.
Again, because every state has different laws, you don’t want to have to work with the courts in another state.
Avoid Parental Kidnapping Accusations
If you share custody of a child, you want to be thoughtful and careful about being accused of parental kidnapping.
You need to know the language of your custody agreement well. If you’re concerned about the risks of the other parent taking the child, you want to be proactive and ask the courts to put language in place to prevent them from taking the child.
While often this is difficult, the more you can communicate with the other parent, the better. You need to know where your child is when they aren’t with you, if possible.
Get the Legal Help You Need
The simple reality is that sometimes it becomes impossible to communicate effectively with the other parent.
You need to get good legal representation to protect your parental interests with a child. Talk with your attorney right away about your potential concerns related to parental kidnapping and international child custody.
Your attorney can work to get language into a custody agreement that might help prevent this from happening.
Understanding the Legal Parameters of Parental Kidnapping
The thought that another parent might take your child somewhere without your permission is terrifying and sadly can be a very real concern for some parents.
Be proactive in considering the possibility of parental child abduction as it relates to your child and work to get measures in place to prevent the other parent from having the ability to do this to you and your child.
If you are struggling with a custody issue, we can help. We work in both family law and international law and know what we’ll need to do to help you. Contact us today so we can get started helping you.