Even in contentious divorces and child custody battles, most people don’t believe their co-parent would take the extreme step of abducting their children. However, parental child abductions are more common than you might think. According to a report by the Polly Klaas Foundation, some three-quarters of missing child cases involve abduction by a relative — and that relative is usually a parent.
Often, parents will take children across state lines. In some cases, however, they take them to another country where it may be more difficult to retrieve them from.
You can take steps to help minimize the risk that a co-parent will abduct your children when working out your custody agreement. For example, you can seek travel restrictions. That may mean specifying that a parent cannot take the children outside of a designated geographic area like the county or state or leave the country without the other parent’s permission.
If your co-parent has family or business ties to another country and you’re particularly concerned that your children will be taken abroad without your permission, you can ask the State Department to place restrictions on your kids’ passports. The U.S. has agreements with a number of countries under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. However, not all countries have signed it, so it may be worthwhile to familiarize yourself with that agreement and include language related to it in your custody agreement.
If you’re concerned that if you leave your kids with your co-parent, they won’t return them, you can ask that the other parent only be allowed supervised visitation. You may also be able to get a court order that states that you’ll notify the police if your co-parent doesn’t abide by the terms of your custody agreement.
You may want to make sure that your kids’ schools and child-care providers have a copy of that order. If your co-parent lives in another jurisdiction, it’s wise to notify the local police there and provide them with a copy of the order.
It will be up to a judge to determine whether such restrictions are warranted and can be in included in your custody documents. Your Kentucky family law attorney can provide guidance on the best way to handle your concerns and to protect your children while still allowing them to have a relationship with their other parent.