What to Do if You Fear Your Ex Will Kidnap Your Child
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, over 350,000 parental abductions occur every year.
“Parental kidnapping” is defined as the taking, or concealment, of a child by one parent in violation of the other parent’s rights, including terms set forth in a custody and visitation agreement. If you believe your child has been kidnapped by a parent or is at risk of being abducted, you should seek legal advice immediately.
Different scenarios that may be considered parental kidnapping (which is a crime) include:
- If a parent doesn’t return a child after a scheduled visit.
- If a parent takes a child during a non-scheduled visitation time (from school, day care, etc.) without notification or consent.
- If a parent takes a child out of the state or country without permission from the other parent.
- If a parent moves with a child, and this move prevents the other parent from his or her visitation rights, it is considered parental kidnapping, even if a standing custody decision does not yet exist.
Legal protections you can take
If you fear your ex may take your child against your wishes, there are some precautions you can take to prevent it. You can ask a judge to issue an emergency custody order, which most states, including Oregon, provide. Additionally, you may request that a stipulation be included in the order to prevent the other parent from taking your child out of state. You may also request that the child’s other parent only be allowed supervised visitation.
Cover your bases when you are not with your child
If you are the custodial parent, there are some other measures you can take to protect your child as well. Contact school authorities, daycare personnel, or other individuals who have access to your child, and ensure they have a copy of the custody orders. This will help ensure your child, or your child’s records, are not released to the non-custodial parent.
Increasingly, many parents are worried that an ex-spouse will take their child out of the country. Every country has their own way of dealing with international child abduction, so this can be a very complex issue and should be urgently discussed with an attorney familiar with international family law and the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. They can help you with some protections, such as:
- Adding travel restrictions to your custody order or a temporary order
- Surrendering your child’s passport to the court
- Signing up with the U.S. State Department to be alerted if someone attempts to get a passport for your child