Parental Kidnapping Laws

parental kidnapping lawsBy Julie Garrison

Special to

Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 children are abducted by a parent.

Almost half of these kidnapped children were taken across state lines by their abducting parent and concealed, with the intent of keeping them for an indefinite period of time or to try to effect a permanent change of custody in the abducting parent’s favor. Forty-four percent of these children are under the age of six.

Parental kidnapping is considered child abuse by the legal system.


The Effect of Parental Abduction on Children

The effect of a parental abduction on children is almost always very damaging. Sometimes an abducting parent will conceal the child’s appearance or name or even tell the child that the other parent has died.

Almost always, the child is instructed to not reveal his or her true identity. They learn to fear the very people who are put in place to help them, such as teachers, doctors, police, school nurses, scout leaders and coaches. A child may even be kept out of school in order to keep the child’s location undetectable to authorities.


U.S. Parental Kidnapping Laws

In all 50 states, laws have been enacted to address the interstate and international kidnapping of children by a parent. These laws were designed to also protect the parent who has been left behind.

Children are not property or a living “bargaining chip,” even though they are often regarded as such by an abducting parent. In the case of a child being taken without permission across state lines, the home state of the child and primary parent is always granted preference and priority by the courts.

Child custody laws also prohibit an abducting parent from instigating a simultaneous custody proceeding in another state. The home state is always afforded the highest jurisdiction.


International Parental Kidnapping Laws

In international cases, the Hague Convention provides for the current custody orders to continue in force and effect; however, there are some countries that do not honor the Hague Convention provisions.

In this event, the parent left behind has no legal recourse and must rely on other help in order to regain physical custody of the children.

Read Related Articles:

The Hague Convention

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.

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3 comments on “Parental Kidnapping Laws

    Can anyone tell me if this scenario would be considered parental kidnapping?
    In 2007 I was awarded primary custody, residential custody combined with joint parenting. It world well until I remarried 5 years later and we had a baby. Then, I decided to take a trip alone to Mexico. I was to spend two weeks (I had a very stressful employer,) in Mexico. By the morning of the third day, my new spouse called me telling me a restraining order from their out of state parent was filed, barring me from seeing them and was totally false (I was mid flight when the “occurrence” happened. I immediately flew home. MX to BOS is not a long flight, but it is last minute and you make 4 stops on the way homeland on record, recording and written in the paperwork “return to NH for custody issues.”hen three weeks after I learn at 930pm that my ex will be in court arguing MASS jurisdiction. (what I know know is MASS never had jurisdiction, I lived in NH with both children, never moved away.
    Apparently my ex (despite being to did not care about this, and neither did my MASS only licensed lawyer.
    I was not able to get to the court house (3.5 hours away) ON NO NOTICE.AI begged to reschedule, ultimately the judge said this was a MASS case… However the judge never read the jurisdiction guidelines did not want (that clearly point to NH) we met all criteria for every aspect for NH court-not MA. My ex did not want his arrest history from his past brought up in court in NH.
    So again, without any representation, or even myself in the room they ordered the case a MA case.Since 2012 I have fought constantly to have the case dismissed and returned to NH. Then a landmark case just like my own and it proved NH was correct. So what did he do, claimed AGAIN I was abusive unfit drug addict and alcoholic.
    Now six years later, I have lost almost all of my rights to parenting, once a primary parent, seeing them 78% of each month, now I see them 6 days.
    Was/Is this parental kidnapping?

    If the custodial parent takes a trip with the child without the other parent’s knowledge, to another state, is that breaking any laws? What if the guardian ad litem had asked both parents to inform the other, when taking a child out of state, even for a vacation?

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