Parental kidnapping is a terrifying thought when you are in the middle of a custody battle or thinking about separating. Family abductions are the second largest number of child abductions. According to NISMART-2, an estimated
- 800,000 children younger than 18 are missing each year, or an average of 2,000 children reported missing each day.
- 200,000 children were abducted by family members.
- 58,000 children were abducted by nonfamily members, and
- 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. These crimes involve someone the child does not know or knows only slightly, who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.
What is Parental Kidnapping?
Parental kidnapping happens when one parent takes their child without the legal custody or permission of the child’s other parent. Kidnapping is the taking of a person without permission, by force or by fraud. A parent can be guilty of kidnapping their child:
- When the parent who takes the child doesn’t have legal custody of their child and didn’t get permission from the child’s other parent.
- When the parent taking the child violates a court order.
Most states do not have a specific law for parental kidnapping. However, the majority of states kidnapping statutes do have language that will allow a parent to be found guilty of kidnapping.
The typical elements of parental kidnapping include:
- Parent maliciously took, enticed away, kept, withheld, or concealed the child from his or her lawful custodian who may be the other parent;
- The child was under the age of 18 or in some states under the age of 16 and
- The parent who took the child did not have custody of the child.
Parents involved in high conflict custody cases and divorce proceedings, parents in mixed culture marriages, abusive marriages, and parents with mental health problems are more likely to kidnap children. Most often preschool or younger children are taken by a parent.
Fathers and mothers are equally as likely to take a child. If you think your spouse might kidnap your child, you need to discuss the issue with your attorney. Your attorney can work with you and the court to help prevent your spouse from leaving with your child.
Protecting Your Child
There are no federal parental kidnapping laws. Congress enacted the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) in 1980 to resolve jurisdictional conflicts in child custody cases. The PKPA prevents a parent from taking a child out of the child’s home state to a different state where the laws may be more favorable to the kidnapping parent’s custody case. The Hague Convention has protections against international kidnapping. Your attorney can also help you get a court order for emergency custody if a parent has made a credible threat of kidnapping.