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Serious matters can come up concerning child custody. State law usually leaves most of the decisions regarding custody up to the parents, unless there exists abuse, or other possible threatening behavior involved. When your spouse is abusive, either to yourself or your children, or when your spouse acts in a negligent manner or in a feasibly dangerous way towards your children, you need to have documentation to help safeguard your child custody rights. A couple of things that is going to help provide evidence may include:

  • Report the abuse to the authorities
  • Carry out a restraining order
  • Attain the assistance of friends or family members that might have witnessed the abuse or neglect
  • Keep a record about every occurrence, and the dates and times when they happened
  • Hire a private investigator to acquire video footage of neglect, such as leaving the child in a vehicle by themselves, or home by themselves devoid of appropriate supervision

Impact of Disputes on Children

High-conflict custody disputes are potentially going to produce a range of symptoms in children. These could comprise of regression, lapses in potty training, trepidation, attachment, revocation, depression, and anxiousness. Provocative or belligerent sexual behavior, or overtly sexual conduct is rare in divorce. Nevertheless, it run of the mill to sexual abuse. Psychological assessment can assist in determining if a child has been a victim of sexual abuse. Whereas the assessment can’t always determine if sexual abuse has happened, it could provide valuable information to help the court to decide if the custody and/or visitation order is required to be altered.

Parental Kidnapping

Parental kidnapping occurs when one of the parents takes the children and declines to return them. When you don’t have a court ordered custody judgement, parental kidnapping according to the law is not valid. Parents are seen as having equal rights to the child and each one of them can go wherever they want, when they want and whenever they want with their child. When one parent transports the child to a second or unnamed place, in order to withhold visitation from the other parent, even devoid of a standing custody judgment, it is deemed parental kidnapping. Recent research released by the U.S. Department of Justice estimated that there were more than 350,000 parental kidnappings in just a year.

Moves with No Notification

Moving to a different state with the child, after notifying the other parent, is not kidnapping. However, doing so without notification may be considered kidnapping when a custody and visitation order is in place.

Failure to return a child after scheduled visitation or not allowing a child to visit the other parent is not kidnapping. It’s interference with custody, termed “contempt of court.” A custodial parent can file a “Motion to Show Cause for Contempt of Court,” typically giving the noncustodial parent 48 hours to return the child when demanded.

Why Would a Parent Kidnap Their Child?

Disagreeing With Custody Orders

Parental kidnapping is usually done to interpose the others parental contact with their child. Family abductions are typically carried out by parents that are involved in disputes over custody of the child. Occasionally a parent that loses custody might feel as if they did not get a fair deal in court. They might opt to override a custody judgement by kidnapping the child to back up what they deem as the appropriate custody decision. They remove or keep the child, disregarding the rights of the other parent. In a lot of cases, this could end up traumatizing the child when they seem to be forced to live life on the lam. Being disconnected from family and friends is going to make the situation worse.

Concern of Harm To Child

Many parents kidnap their children to safeguard them from maltreatment by the other parent. Their reasoning could include accusations of sexual, physical, or mental abuse. In a lot of cases, these accusations are found to be false and are meant to ruin the character of the accused. These usually bring a dishonor that can estrange the parent from their friends, colleagues, and members of their family.

Retaliation Against The Other Parent

Sometimes, one parent might kidnap the child as retaliation towards the other parent. This typically bears no relation to what is in the child’s best interest and is done by an irritated parent that wants to retaliate. A jealous parent could use this scheme to ruin the child’s relationship with the other parent. A kidnapping parent sees the child’s needs as minor to the parental agenda which is to irritate, enrage, control, attack or mentally torment the other parent.

A lot of children are told that their other parent has died or doesn’t love them anymore. While they are removed and secluded from relatives and friends, kidnapped children might have their name and appearance changed and could be told not to give away their true identities or situation. These children experience great emotional detriment and might go through a variety of emotions comprising of, depression, uneasiness, concern of abandonment, anger, isolation, overblown fearfulness, and loss of trust and soundness. Because of the harmful impacts on children, parental kidnapping has been described as a type of child abuse.

Stopping Parental Kidnapping

Prevent child kidnapping by being proactive, especially around custody decisions. If you anticipate the other parent might abduct your child, seek an emergency custody order, often available in many states. Include provisions like restricting out-of-state travel or requiring supervised visitation.

As the custodial parent, ensure that school and daycare personnel possess copies of your custody orders, explicitly instructing them not to release the child or any documents to the non-custodial parent. Friends or family aiding in concealing a child should be warned about potential criminal accountability for assisting in a felony.

Warning Signs to Look Out For

While there are no foolproof indicators, certain signals should not be overlooked:

  • Prior Threats: Parent threatened kidnapping before.
  • Limited Ties: No close links to the child’s home state.
  • International Ties: Citizenship elsewhere with family connections.
  • Global Connections: Friends and family residing abroad.
  • Financial Motivation: No financial ties to the current area.
  • Major Life Changes: Recently sold house, left a job, or liquidated assets.
  • History of Issues: Mental disorders, domestic violence, or child abuse.
  • Criminal Record: Previous criminal history.

If these factors suggest an increased kidnapping risk, consult your attorney to petition the courts for suitable safeguards.

In the Event of Parental Kidnapping

In 1980, the federal government passed the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act to address interstate custody matters. The Act dictates that state authorities provide complete faith and trust to other states’ custody judgement, provided that those were made in compliance with the terms of the Act. Under the PKPA, home states jurisdiction is the favored cause of primary jurisdiction. Home state is in reference to the location where the child has lived for the past 6 months or longer.

Report The Child Missing

The first thing you need to do is immediately report the child missing and file a Missing Persons Report with local authorities. Be sure you have copies of your current custody orders with you to present to law enforcement.

Get Your Attorney Involved

Get a hold of your attorney and petition that a felony warrant be acquired towards the kidnapper. Have your lawyer institute contempt proceedings and file for custody in the home state of jurisdiction. Ask for the Federal Parent Locator Service be utilized to locate the missing parent. They are able to access information from outside sources, including the IRS, SSA, and the FBI.

Contact Friends and Family

Call everyone that has recently contacted with your ex. This could comprise of family members, friends, neighbors, and their boss. Be sure that they know that this is criminally offensive and when they hold back information, they could be held accountable for abetting in felony kidnapping. They could even be charged with conspiracy. Get a hold of your ex’s lawyer. Courts have bound attorneys to disclose their clients’ location in child kidnapping cases.

National Child Search Assistance Act

Since 1990, the National Child Search Assistance Act mandates law enforcement to submit details of missing children under eighteen to the FBI and NCIC databases. It sets state reporting requirements. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act further compels law enforcement to enter this information into the NCIC database within two hours of receiving the report.

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)

Get a hold of the NCMEC for reporting the missing child and petition for all available support. Request for a free copy of their pamphlets to that provide advice concerning child abductions. They can establish non-profit groups that offer emotional support and guidance to parents of kidnapped children.

International Kidnapping

Local law enforcement is able to inform INTERPOL the child as missing. When the child has been taken or kept overseas, get a hold of your local FBI office. The FBI has jurisdiction to examine presumed transgressions of the IPKCA. Get a hold of the Office of Children’s Issues in which is going to have beneficial information, containing an “International Parental Child Abduction Booklet” in which includes beneficial information concerning international abductions.

Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

Researchers link domestic violence to child abuse, impacting children as witnesses. Domestic violence is a behavioral pattern with escalating severity, posing a risk to children. Protect them by removing yourself.

Child Abuse and Neglect Overview

Child abuse encompasses physical, sexual, emotional harm, neglect, endangerment, and abandonment, causing lasting scars. Some parents justify abuse as discipline, but there’s a stark difference.

Repeating Cycle of Child Abuse

Child abuse tends to repeat. One in three abused children becomes an abusive parent. Early intervention is crucial for recovery and breaking the cycle.

If Your Child is Subject to Abuse

As a parent, you’re responsible for your child’s well-being, even if you aren’t the abuser. Seek help immediately if you’re a victim. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7223) for crisis intervention and support.

Identifying Signs of Child Abuse

Learn to recognize physical abuse signs, such as unexplained bruises or patterned injuries. Be alert to clothing inappropriate for weather, possibly concealing injuries.

Signs of Sexual Abuse: Look for bloody/torn underclothing, genital swelling/bleeding, or behavioral changes. Older children may turn to harmful habits like substance abuse or self-harm.

Indicators of Neglect: Dirty appearance, poor hygiene, untreated ailments, and injuries suggest neglect.

Handling Disclosures: Respond calmly to child abuse revelations. Offer support without cross-examining, ensuring the child feels heard and believed.

Emergency Situations: In cases of direct danger or serious injury, call 911. Suspected abuse requires immediate action. Contact Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) or local hospitals with child abuse programs.

Exiting an Abusive Marriage: Seek counseling for a safe exit. Numerous resources provide temporary housing, counseling, and financial aid. Prioritize your children’s safety.

Protective Orders

An Order for Protection (OFP) is a court directive shielding you from domestic abuse, instructing the abuser to cease harm, threats, and contact at various locations. Federal law criminalizes gun possession for individuals with an OFP. If the abuser owns guns, your petition should request the court to mandate surrendering firearms to law enforcement.

The 4 Types of Court Orders

Below are the main types of Court Orders.

Protection Order

This is a civil order for domestic violence victims in which the court instructs the abuser that threatened and/or assaulted you, not to do it again. This is able to be accomplished at any local court.

No Contact Order

A criminal order for domestic violence victims, initiated after charges against the abuser. Prosecutors request it for safety concerns.

Restraining Order

Issued during divorce or custody cases, it forbids contact or violence, possibly granting temporary custody. Seek legal advice independently.

Anti-Harassment Order

A court order filed by someone harassed, limiting the harasser’s contact near home or workplace.


  1. Nolo. (2015, January 19). Emergency child custody. Retrieved October 22, 2021, from

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