By Julie Garrison
Special to DadsDivorce.com
An ounce of protection can help ward off a lifetime of sorrow and frustration.
The key in preventing parental kidnapping is to put protections and interventions in place that will prevent the child abduction from ever happening in the first place.
Here are 13 proactive actions that a parent can take:
- Get a family law attorney. Because a dad wants rock-solid protection from an ex-wife kidnapping their children, he should ensure that there are no gaps in orders and preventative measures that have been established. A family law attorney can help prevent an ex-wife from finding a loophole or taking advantage of an area of ambiguity in existing child custody orders. An attorney is worth every penny a dad pays for legal services and the resulting peace of mind.
- If an ex-wife threatens to abduct a child, ask the police or prosecutor to intervene. A police officer or the District Attorney can contact the ex-wife and warn her of the criminal consequences of abducting a child.
- A dad should teach his children how to call home and when to call.
- A father should notify daycare centers, schools, babysitters and all other adults who interact with his children. He should inform them of all custody orders in effect and provide them with certified copies of those orders. They should be instructed not to release the children to anyone else – including their mother – without the custodial parent’s permission. He should also ask to be contacted immediately if his ex-wife attempts to pick up the children without his explicit authorization.
- A dad should file and/or register a copy of all child custody orders in the ex-wife’s state. This immediately alerts the courts that there is a valid order in effect and that it must be enforced and not modified.
- A custodial dad should keep lists of identifying information about his ex-wife, including Social Security Number, up-to-date photographs, driver’s license number, license plate numbers, credit card and bank account numbers, and any other identifying information that can alert the authorities as to the ex-wife’s whereabouts and current activities.
- A dad should get his children fingerprinted at their local police department and keep those fingerprints on file and readily accessible.
- A dad should flag the children’s passports to indicate that both parents must sign them and approve of the children leaving the country.
- If a custody order has not been entered, a dad should think about the option of going to custody mediation. Mediators are trained to help divorcing couples work out custody disputes and come up with custody orders and parenting plans that both parents can agree upon. This measure can be an effective deterrent to parental kidnapping.
- Another non-court option in custody negotiations is a collaborative divorce. In a collaborative divorce the parties meet with an attorney, a family counselor, and any other professional necessary to reaching an agreement in all divorce and custody issues and parenting plans. This is infinitely less expensive and less stressful than resolving disputes in an adversarial courtroom setting in front of a judge who, basically knows very little about the couple he or she is deciding issues on. A collaborative divorce is more personal and kinder to both the husband and the wife.
- If there is a history of domestic abuse or prominent power imbalances exist in a marriage, mediation and collaborative divorce are not advised.
- Look into counseling. Call Child Find of America, Inc., a nonprofit organization, at 1-800-A-WAY-OUT, and engage in telephone counseling. This organization offers counseling to parents considering abduction and also to a parent wanting to end an abduction situation.
- Request a prevention packet from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.
Be Prepared and Protect Your Children
By knowing the signs and risk factors of potential child abduction by an ex-wife, and by putting the necessary legal and preventative measures into action, a divorced dad can gain peace of mind.
Of course, some proactive measures will take time and financial resources. But they will save a father months, years, or even a lifetime of worry and grief over losing his children to parental abduction.
Every dad should carefully consider his own situation and the abduction risk of his current child custody and parenting arrangement and put all protections into place for his sake and the sake of his children.
Read other articles in our Parental Kidnapping series:
Julie Garrison has been writing articles and short stories for the past 10 years and has appeared in several magazines and e-zines.