Parental Child Abductions
Published: 02/14/2008 by The Harris Law Firm, P.C.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, several hundred children are abducted every year in the United States. Most of these abductions involve one of the victim’s parents.
Definition of “Abduction”
The definition of a custodial abduction is the removal of a child from the home jurisdiction in contravention of an existing custody order. In the absence of an existing order there can be no custodial abduction, and either parent is within his or her rights to take the child anywhere they choose.
To prevent a parental child abduction, parents should adhere to the following preventative measures:
· Retain originals of your child’s birth certificate and passport.
- · Maintain current photographs of your child that can be easily distributed.
- · Keep an updated written physical description of your child
- · Have your local law-enforcement agency fingerprint your child.
- · Provide written instructions to your child’s school authorities, day care providers, and doctor’s office personnel not to release information about your child to unauthorized sources.
- · Teach young children to spell their full name and memorize their home telephone number.
- · Obtain copies of the court order that clearly defines parenting time arrangements, and provide a copy to schools, day care, and school officials.
If your child is abducted within the United States, you should immediately:
- · File a "missing person report “with the police and request that your child's name and description be entered into the National Crime Information files.
- · Contact The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and request that your child's photograph be circulated to the media.
Divorced or separated parents should request that their attorney register their U.S. citizen children into the U.S. Department of State Passport Services Lookout System as this will enable them to be contacted and informed if anyone applies for a new or replacement U.S. passport for their child. The system will also alert all national passport agencies and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad if a parent registers an objection to the issuance of a passport for the child.
Please note that the inability of parents to obtain a U.S. passport for their child through the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program will not prevent a dual-national child from securing and traveling on a foreign passport. Foreign embassies are under no obligation to honor requests or U.S. court orders restricting the issuance or denial of passports to U.S. citizen children who have dual nationality.
Preventative Measures for International Abductions:
- 1. Monitor all joint bank and credit card accounts for unusual or increased financial activity by the other parent:
- 2. Review joint telephone billing statements for increased or unusual international telephone activity:
- 3. Many parents planning an international abduction seek to obtain consent from the other parent to leave the country with the children using a pretext such as a sick relative or special occasion. Be suspicious of all requests by the other parent to leave the country that do not include both parents. Often, a wise strategy is to initially agree to the requested travel in order to buy the time to obtain the necessary orders.
- 4. To the extent possible, do not engage in conflict with the other parent or participate in conduct that could hasten or precipitate abduction.
- 5. Consult a qualified attorney as soon as abduction is suspected.
In cases where a parent believes that the other parent has taken the child out of the United States, your attorney will contact the following organizations for assitance:
- · The international criminal police organization, INTERPOL, will request that the local police department search for the child in the country where it is believed the child has been taken.
In cases where the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction applies, the U.S. State Department can provide information about the legal system of the country to which the child was abducted, and a list of attorneys willing to work with a lawyer in the U.S.
Whether kidnapping occurs within the U.S. or across international borders, parental child abduction is often a long and painful process for the child and for the parent who has been left behind. Paying close attention to safety measures is important and being proactive in regard to prevention is imperative.
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