Most people believe strangers are responsible for the majority of childhood abductions, but national statistics say parental kidnapping is more often to blame. A family abduction occurs when a family member, likely a separated or divorced parent, takes and hides a child for some length of time. This heartbreaking and devastating crime occurs every single day 365 days a year. There are no correct statistics to show an accurate figure on the numbers but it would be staggering.
Parental Child Abduction or kidnapping is usually driven out of anger, frustration, abandonment and desperation. Often, emotions overwhelm personal judgment and sound reasoning. And in custody disputes, this often leads to one parent losing their child to parental abduction.
Often cited reasons for parental abduction include:
- Forced interaction or a reconciliation with the parent left-behind
- Blackmailing for financial reasons
- Spite or punishment against the other parent
- Loss of or fear of losing custody or visitation rights with the child
- Protecting the child from the other parent who is perceived to molest, abuse, or neglect the child. This reason is often abused by abducting parents to support their illegal actions.
Are You at Risk of Losing Your Child to Parental Abduction?
Go with your gut feeling! In most cases abductions are very well planned usually with other family members or friends to assist. In some cases there are subtle and obvious warning signs of a pending abduction. The most common signs your child may be in danger of parental abduction include but not limited to:
- Threatened abduction or attempted abduction in the past
- Suspected abuse supported by family and friends
- Paranoid delusion or severely sociopathic behavior
- Your spouse/ex has alien citizenship (in a foreign country) and may potentially flee the country of habitual residence
- Your spouse/ex feels alienated from or fears the legal system, and has family or social support in another community or abroad
- Your spouse/ex has no strong ties to your child’s home state
- Your spouse/ex has no job or is not financially tied to the area
- Your spouse/ex is planning to quit a job, sell a home, or close bank accounts
- Your spouse/ex applies for passports, or obtains copies of school or medical records
Go with your gut feeling…….. pay close attention to all of these potential signs and contact CARI – Child Abduction Recovery International for assistance. It’s vital you act as soon as you get suspicious. CARI can advise on next steps and put you in contact with experienced lawyers who deal with International Parental Child Abduction cases. Any direct threat of parental abduction must be taken seriously. The family court and authorities should be contacted immediately if you feel your child is in imminent danger. If it’s not imminent danger the authorities will not act!
Parental Abduction is a Serious Crime
Both parents are entitled to equal rights and access to a child unless an order specifically limits one parent’s rights or access to their child. Before a divorce or child custody suit is filed, either parent can take their child and maintain custody of them.
Once a custody order is in place, each parent must abide by it but unfortunately this is not the case. If a parent without legal custody of their child violates a custody order and snatches or conceals a child, they may be potentially charged with parental abduction depending on the country of residence as majority of countries still do not class Parental Abduction as a crime.
The taking of a child is considered abduction by looking at three main factors:
- The legal status of the offending parent
- Any existing court orders regarding custody
- The intent of the abducting parent
Parental abduction often violates many laws, and if parental abduction occurs, contact CARI or authorities immediately. Let us guide you on what to do as using the justice system to help you locate and bring home your child will just not happen. This is something victim parents don’t often work out until a long time after the abduction has happened. Getting the correct advise is extremely difficult. Victim parents need to be extremely careful what you see, hear or read on social media as there are so many frauds, people, lawyers (yes, some lawyers have no idea about IPCA cases but will tell you they do for the $$$) or organisations giving incorrect information. We have seen it so many times direct from parents. Locating your child immediately and focusing on dedicated resources in your case is an absolute must. The first 72 hrs is vital.
Preventing Family Abductions
Custody battles are frustrating and can be infuriating, and child abductions are very common. To keep your children safe, consider following these recommendations:
- Start any child custody process immediately upon learning of your impending separation/divorce (as you need a custody order to prove your rights)
- Impose visitation restrictions, such as supervised visits, if there is imminent danger of parental abduction
- Include parental abduction prevention measures in the custody order such as having both parents post bonds. This will serve as a deterrent, and if the child is abducted by your spouse/ex, the money helps you with costs of recovery.
- Maintain a certified copy of the custody order at your home and another with a trusted family member.
- Document any abduction threats and report them immediately to your family court and/or lawer.
- Contact the police to intervene and alert your spouse/ex of the consequences of child abduction.
- File certified copies of your child’s custody order with their schools, healthcare providers, daycare, sitters, neighbors etc. Make sure it’s known not to release your child to the non-custodial parent without your permission and demand to be notified if an attempt is made. Schools are very common for abductions to happen.
- Keep a record of all physical descriptive information on your child and your spouse/ex, including height and weight, hair and eye color and any distinguishing marks, and maintain current photos. List national insurance numbers, license plate numbers, vehicle information, and other identifiable data.
- Obtain a passport for your child (keep it safe), and let authorities know your child cannot leave the country without your written authorization. Contact your country border authorities to find out what can be done to assist. From experience CARI knows in most cases even with a travel stop on the child’s passport abductors still manage to get the child out of the country due to Embassies (abductors Embassy) issuing new passports sometimes in different names.
Although it may be difficult to do, maintaining a friendly connection to the your spouse’s/ex’s family may be beneficial. It could help you avoid the trauma of family abduction, and in the event of a kidnapping, you may need their support to bring your child home safely. Unfortunately in 99.9% of cases the abductors family in the foreign country are always involved directly or indirectly in some way.
What Else You Can Do
Keeping your children safe also requires open communication between you and your child. Ensure your children know as much information as possible including their full name, your full name, and full addresses and phone numbers. Make sure they know how and when to call you, and how and when to contact emergency services. If they are old enough teach them how to use an email account and set up an email account they would know how to use if they were to get access to a computer. This can dramatically reduce the time it takes to locate your child.
Most of all, make sure your child feels loved. Convey a message – without mentioning, or accusing the your spouse/ex of being a potential threat, and that you will always love them, look out for them and will do anything and everything to be with them.
Losing your child to parent kidnapping is gut wrenching and heartbreaking not only for you but also for your child. Unfortunately, the laws that do exist (The Hague Convention) to help you get your children back is useless and in almost 100% of cases fails the left behind parent. Should you ever lose your child due to parental abduction, turn to CARI for immediate advise on your first steps and do not rely on the criminal justice system and authorities for help. Action must be taken immediately, something authorities are still lacking.
Should you have any questions specific to your child custody or visitation case, or if you would like help enforcing a child custody order, contact CARI and we can put you in contact with experienced IPCA legal representation.
At the end of the day most IPCA cases are not known until the child is out of the country, so being prepared for the worst situation ahead of time will go a long way on you wasting valuable time and money on the wrong people and in the wrong places.
International Parental Child Abduction is Child Abuse.