While most divorced parents don’t resort to kidnapping their children, it can happen. Over 200,000 children are abducted by family members every year.
Parental kidnapping can happen for any number of reasons. Sometimes a parent will do it because they feel like they’ve gotten a bad deal in the custody agreement. In some cases, they do it to seek revenge against the other parent. In other instances, they believe the child is in danger with the other parent.
How your attorney can help
If you believe your co-parent is capable of abducting your child, tell your family law attorney, even if you don’t have a custody agreement in place yet. The sooner you get one, the easier it is to assert your rights if you need to. Make sure your child’s school, day care center, babysitters and other caregivers know what the custody agreement says – including whether and when your co-parent can pick up or see your child.
Your attorney can help you take other measures to help prevent parental abduction. If there’s a concern that your ex could take your child overseas, there are steps you can take to prevent the child from leaving the country without your authorization.
Steps to help you and your child be prepared
The Polly Klaas Foundation has a free Child Safety Kit that gives parents a place to store fingerprints, DNA samples, photos and medical information. It provides resources that any parent can use. It’s a good idea to keep identifying information about your co-parent, including information about their vehicles, on hand as well.
If your child is very young, make sure they know how to tell police and other trusted people their full name, phone number and address. Make sure they know how to use cellphones as well as landline phones and pay phones to call for help.
How you can help make abduction less likely
Working to maintain an amicable relationship with your co-parent may help prevent abduction. Don’t give them any reason to believe that you don’t respect the custody and visitation agreement. Sometimes, parental abduction is a spur-of-the-moment response to anger with the other parent.
Your family law attorney can provide valuable guidance that can help keep your child safe. Even if you have measures included in your custody order, make sure you tell your attorney about threats or changes you believe make abduction more likely.