Earlier this year, a two-year-old girl was rescued by California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers after being kidnapped by her mother in Modesto. Thankfully, the girl was unharmed during the ordeal.
However, tales such as this are not uncommon. In fact, parental kidnapping is not as unlikely as you might imagine, as children are much more likely to be abducted by someone they know or are related to than a complete stranger.
In this issue, we’ll go behind the numbers to look for reasons behind the dangerous occurrence of children being taken by people they know, and share tips for how you can recognize the signs of a potential parental kidnapping scenario.
What is parental kidnapping?
California law defines parental kidnapping as the unlawful act of one parent to intentionally or maliciously deprive the other parent of their custody or visitation rights.
However, if one parent feels the child is in danger of being harmed physically or emotionally by the other parent, the interference with custody will likely carry no consequence as long as the parent:
- informed the District Attorney (DA) that he or she has possession of the child;
- has taken steps to file for custody by following the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act guidelines; and has
- provided current contact information for the child to the DA.
Are more children kidnapped by people they know?
According to statistics from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, roughly 200,000 children are taken each year by family members.
Why do parents kidnap their own child?
Each circumstance is different, but the most common reasons given for so many children being taken by one parent include:
- fear of being isolated from or losing contact with the child;
- an attempt to punish the other parent;
- a belief that the child is being turned against the parent; and a
- disagreement with the custody order.
Are there warning signs of parental kidnapping?
Among the common warning signs that should heighten your sense of alarm are the other parent:
- making threats of kidnapping the child;
- being consistently disagreeable over the custody arrangement;
- experiencing feelings of disaffection with the legal system while having a stronger support system in a different location; and
- experiencing a mental illness.
What should I do if I feel that my ex has kidnapped our child?
The safety of your child is paramount, so the steps you should take in order if you feel your child has been taken by your ex are:
- notify the police immediately so that they’ll be able to issue an Amber Alert;
- inform the court that the child custody order has been violated by the other parent; and
- continue to make every effort to contact the other parent and their family members, who may play a key role in helping your child return home safely.
How can I protect my child from parental kidnapping?
The safety of your child should never be taken for granted, and we sincerely hope you do not experience the nightmare of parental kidnapping. To that end, there are a few proactive steps you can take to enhance your child’s safety, including:
- making sure your child knows how to call people on the telephone and knows your contact numbers;
- having your child fingerprinted at your local police station;
- routinely taking color photographs of your child; and
- being sure you have contact information for the other parent and their relatives.
If you’re facing divorce, talk with a San Diego men’s divorce lawyer at the Men’s Legal Center.
We’re huge fans of dads, and firmly believe in making sure they’re armed with the information needed to keep their children safe.
If divorce is in your future, we strongly encourage you to tap into the skillful expertise of a men’s divorce lawyer who is committed to positioning you for the best possible outcome.
Get in touch with us here at the Men’s Legal Center. Our number is 619-234-3838. You can also reach us via email.