A serious issue that can arise with child custody is a parental kidnapping. Parental kidnapping happens when one parent takes the children and refuses to return them. Parents might kidnap a child because they have a disagreement with a custody order, fear of harm to the child, or sometimes they want revenge on the other parent. In the state of California it is considered parental kidnapping if one parent removes the child to a second or unknown location to deny the other parent visitation. This applies even without a standing custody decision.
When to Seek Legal Advice
If you feel your children are vulnerable to abduction, speak with a family law attorney. Discussing with only friends or relatives about your fears is not enough to protect your child. It is very important that you have a clear custody order. It should specify what each parent can and cannot do, particularly when it comes to traveling outside of your home state with your child.
When factors are present which may indicate a heightened risk of kidnapping, you should contact your attorney to petition the court for safeguards appropriate to your case. Some warning signs to watch out for include:
- Previous threat to abduct the child
- Other parent has no strong ties to the child’s home state
- Citizenship in another country with family ties to their country
- Friends and family living out of state or abroad
- Being unemployed, able to take a job anywhere or otherwise financially independent
- Recently sold or liquidated assets (home, bank account, etc.)
- History of mental instability, domestic violence or child abuse
- Criminal record or past illegal activities
Fortunately, most parents do not experience a kidnapping by the other parent. Nevertheless, it is important to keep a photo with a written description of your children, including hair and eye color, height, weight, fingerprints and any special physical characteristics. You should also have a recent photo of the other parent as this information could be vital in locating your child in case of a kidnapping. An attorney can advise you of other information that is important to know about the other parent.
A Final Note
Should you ever experience a parental kidnapping, it is helpful to contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to report your missing child and request all available assistance. They can identify non-profit groups that provide emotional support and guidance to parents of abducted child. In addition, you should visit the Sacramento County District Attorney’s child abduction page to request assistance. You should also contact a family law attorney and request that a felony warrant be obtained against the other parent. Your lawyer can initiate a contempt proceeding and file for custody in your home state of jurisdiction.