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What Legal Remedies are Available if a Parent Abducts a Child?

In matters of family law, perhaps more then any other legal dispute, emotions often overwhelm reason and judgment. Sometimes, in custody disputes, this can lead to one parent absconding with the children. In these situations, a parent's remedies include relying on the criminal justice system and petitioning for a different custody arrangement to prevent future repeat incidents.


Though law enforcement officials are typically loath to intervene in family issues, when it comes to kidnapping or domestic violence, often law enforcement is the best, if not only, remedy available. Parental abduction in many cases will implicate numerous federal and state laws, as well as state and federal authorities, including the FBI. The best bet in these situations is to leave the search to the experienced officers and allow the justice system to run its course.

Adjusting Custody

Once your child is located and returned home, you'll want to do as much as possible to prevent a future recurrence. If you previously had joint custody, and the other parent took the child, they violated the court custody order and denied you your custody rights. This will likely damage the abducting parent's standing in family law court and could lead to a temporary or even permanent elimination of their custody rights. Of course, this will vary by state, judge, and family.

International Disputes

This is the most difficult of parental abduction cases. When a parent flees with the children across borders, the law is far less equipped to provide a remedy. In some cases, the parent will flee to a country that has agreed to an international treaty, such as the Hague Convention Treaty on International Child Abduction. If so, a combination of legal and political pressure could lead to your child's return. Outside of those countries, however, your remedies will vary greatly and are best discussed with an experience attorney that specializes in international custody disputes.

For more information, please check out Custody or Visitation Interference on FindLaw.

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