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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 sometimes overwhelm reason and judgment. This may be especially true when children are involved. Sometimes in custody disputes, this can lead to one parent absconding with the children. This can be heartbreaking for the other parent, but fortunately, the law provides methods to help the parent bring the children back. 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.

Kidnapping

Though law enforcement officials are typically reluctant 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. A good bet in these situations is to leave the search to the experienced officers and allow the justice system to run its course. Parents are also free to hire their own private investigators who may be able to devote additional time and resources to the case. However, the additional costs of going this route may be difficult to cover for many.

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.

Enforcing Child Custody Orders

Every case of child abduction or kidnapping by a parent is also likely a violation of a custody order. Because of that, many of the remedies in a child abduction case are the same as those available for any violation of a child custody order. Many questions about child custody violations are answered in our article Custody or Visitation Interference. Some of the penalties for violating custody orders are large fines, jail time, loss of custody, loss of visitation rights,

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 on International Child Abduction. If so, a combination of legal and political pressure could lead to your child's return. In this case, it may be beneficial to contact public officials who may be able to use their political clout to help realize the return of your child. Outside of those countries, however, your remedies will vary greatly and are best discussed with an experience attorney that specializes in international custody disputes.

If you have questions that are specific to your child custody or visitation case, or if you would like help enforcing a custody order, please contact an attorney in your area with family law experience who may be able to help.

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