Parental kidnapping cases are on the rise, and they have become a serious concern to many. We often wonder whether the law considers it a crime, and the answer is definitely. Parental kidnapping violates the laws across all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, U.S. federal laws, and international laws.

After reading this article, you will clearly understand what parental kidnapping is and its circumstances and consequences. We will shed light on related laws and share valuable tips you can follow if your child will ever be the victim of parental kidnapping.

What is Parental Kidnapping?

Victim of parental kidnappingUnfortunately, thousands of cases happen across the U.S each year where one parent kidnaps their child and moves out of the country. Nonetheless, more cases include the abduction of children by one of their parents and within the confines of the U.S. borders.

Sometimes, a non-custodial parent will transport a child illegally into the U.S. after they kidnap him and take him away from his custodial parent living abroad.

Parental Kidnapping Definition

As its name indicates, “parental abduction” or “parental kidnappings” is the wrongful retention, taking, or concealment of a child by one of his parents.

To add, parental kidnapping violates the other parent’s rights or another family member (i.e., custody, visitation rights, etc.). In other words, parental kidnapping means that one parent decides to take away their child without the other parent’s full consent.

When is it Considered Kidnapping by a Parent?

In most cases, parental kidnapping occurs when parents separate or begin the divorce proceedings, and it happens in two main ways:

  1. One of the parents decides to take away the child and completely violates the custody agreement.
  2. Both parents did not have any custody agreement. One parent decides to take away the child without the other parent’s full consent. This means parental kidnapping without custody order and forbidding the other parent from visiting or seeing his child.

Custodial kidnapping may often seem like the only remaining alternative or a last resort to one parent from another abusive parent or even an unfavorable custody dispute playing out in the court of law.

Keep in mind that stopping parental kidnapping or abduction legally will depend on what custody agreement you have in place. In this case, it is best to consult with a skilled attorney.

Parents Who Abduct: Who are They? Why Do They Abduct?

– Who are They?

Parent who abduct his kidParental kidnapping cases are different and can be extreme and dangerous. Sometimes, children become victims of parental kidnapping at the parents’ hands they trust and love the most.

On the other hand, they become prisoners of their most abusive and cruel parent or even an absent parent they never met before. Whatever the child’s relationship with the abductor, in an instant, the child loses everything he used to consider as his “normal life.”

– Why Do They Abduct?

Child custody kidnapping happens for several reasons, including:

  • The abductor is confused about their marital relationship with believing that the other parent is bad for the child.
  • The abductor seeks revenge by taking something the other parent “wants” and “values.”
  • The abductor wants to protect the child from physical, mental, or emotional abuse.
  • The abductor fears the consequences of the other parent’s values, influences, or behavior.
  • The abductor does not want to involve the other parent in raising the child.
  • The abductor tries to force a reconciliation with the other parent.

How Does Parental Abduction Affect Children?

Parental abductions affect children in several ways. It might even make them spend all their lives on the run like a fugitive. Some might ask why this happens, mainly that the child stays with his parent (depending on the case). Well, the answer is simple.

Parents will dramatically alter the appearance of their child by dying or cutting his hair. The kidnapper parent may also coach their child to hide his true identity in every way possible. That includes keeping secret his real name, birth date, home state, or addresses. This way, the police will not recognize the child who won’t return home any time soon.

Suppose the abducted parent decides to send their child to school. In that case, his academic performance and social life will undoubtedly be at the lowest level. In severe cases, the child does not even receive proper medical treatment. That is because hospitals will require him to provide his personal information necessary for insurance claims processing.

Child Trauma

For the kidnapping to succeed, parents would need to brainwash their kids for weeks, months, or even years, making them believe that the other parent no longer loves them or is dead.

Children who become victims of parental abduction are innocent creatures imprisoned by their parents’ decisions. Every action a parent takes will harm their children’s relationships with other family members. It might even ruin their sense of family belonging while compromising their identity.

Above all that, the child will suffer emotional detachment, loyalty conflicts, and feelings of betrayal. The child will no longer trust any adult around him, which will significantly impact his mature relationships later on in life.

In severe cases, child abduction will lead to more stress added to past stressful events. This will result in child abuse, child neglect, job loss, financial insecurities, domestic violence, etc.

In short, kidnapping your own child, even if it starts as a custody dispute, can balloon into a much larger tragedy with short-term, long-term, and widespread emotional and psychological effects: reactive attachment disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Parental Kidnapping and the Law

Mother with a baby thinking about a parental kidnapping and the lawAs mentioned above, parental kidnapping is against the law, and it causes a lot of harm to all involved. Thus, it is in the child’s best interests to settle any custody issues with the family court and within the law’s boundaries. This way, you will preserve the relationship with your child and the well-being of all involved.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that treat family abduction as a felony under certain circumstances. And that after recognizing the actual damage and harm that a family kidnapping can have on a child.

In 1993, Congress passed the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (“IPKCA”; thus, the Federal law forbids the taking of a child across state borders and out of the country. To clarify, “IPKCA” categorizes parental kidnapping as a federal crime. It is strictly forbidden for a parent or any other individual to remove or attempt to remove a child from the U.S. or retain a child outside of the U.S. with the intent to obstruct another person’s custodial rights.

As an example, consider a married couple who had a son together in the United States. Due to a marital dispute, the mother moved the son to another country away from the father without returning. In this case, the mother has committed a federal crime of international parental kidnapping. She can face up to three years of imprisonment.

Also, many states implement laws that categorize family abduction as a misdemeanor offense. Sentencing options may range between an order to return the child, community service, restitution, probation, or incarceration.

Tips to Follow as a Searching Parent

If your spouse kidnaps your child, there are numerous ways you can follow as a searching parent to ensure the safe returning of your child.

Despite the emotional turmoil that a parent might be dealing with, it is crucial to reason and follow some of the below steps:

  • Confirm that your child is missing: do not strictly rely on your intuition. Check in the neighborhood, with your family, and with your friends. Call hospitals, medical centers, libraries, or other educational centers.
  • Contact law enforcement officers: ask them to file a missing child report and enter a missing child in the National Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File. Write down any information they might provide and ask for the name of the person filing the report for future follow-up.
  • Provide as much information as possible about your child: in addition to your child’s birthday, social security number, school name, you will need to provide a detailed description of your child’s appearance, clothes, and unique identifying features. Try to give any helpful information to identify the DNA of your child.
  • Provide information about the abducting parent: this information includes social security number, recent pictures (if applicable), contact information, etc.
  • Obtain legal counsel: if you did not already hire a skilled lawyer, ask friends and family members you trust for a referral. You can also obtain a list of family law attorneys from the district court in your state bar association.
  • Determine what kind of custody agreement you have in place (if applicable): search for or obtain certified copies of the custody agreement and share it with your lawyer and law enforcement officers.


  • Children who is a victim of parental abductionSometimes a parent might think that kidnapping their children will protect them. However, parental abduction is a criminal offense that affects the child’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being, according to the parental kidnapping law.
  • A parent who has kidnapped their child may face three years in prison. Parental abduction sentencing may include an order to return the child, community service, restitution, probation, or incarceration.
  • Whether your partner is violating a custody order or not, you should contact law enforcement officers and a trusted lawyer to ensure the safe return of your child.

If your spouse kidnaps your child, make sure to think rationally and follow all the necessary steps to settle the case legally. Parental abduction is not a slight situation; therefore, make sure to cooperate with your attorney and other law enforcement officers.

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