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Child Abduction Laws

Child abduction is the removal of a minor child from their home, without the authorization of the parents or legal guardian. Usually most child abductions occur when one parent takes the child from another parent without permission. Generally this happens due to custody battles between the parents. However, many child abductions occur when strangers randomly select a child and choose to abduct them. Below are a few of the more commonly asked questions about child abduction and child kidnapping.

I have primary custody over my child. Her father is allowed weekend visitation. He has not returned my child and said that I would never get to see her again. What are my options?

Since you have primary custody of your child, the father's actions are considered child abduction. You need to make a police report as soon as possible so the authorities can begin the process of returning your child to you. You will need proof that you have primary custody. If you have any documentation that will verify this, you will need to take this with you when you file the report with the police department.

Is there any way to keep my girlfriend from leaving the state with our child? We live in California.

In order to keep the girlfriend from leaving with the child, you need to establish paternity. You can do this by taking a paternity test or having your name listed as the child's father on the birth certificate. Your legal rights are limited because you are not married to the child's mother and if you haven't established paternity. However, if paternity is established, you and your girlfriend have equal custody rights of the child, according to California law. If the girlfriend leaves with the child, she can be charged with child abduction. You can file for custody of the child in California which would force the girlfriend to return and deal with the visitation or custody arrangements.

Will a court grant custody to a mother who has to leave the country for work several times a year in Jamaica, or will they grant custody to the father who stays in the country?

Usually, the courts would rather grant custody to a parent that remains in the states but will allow a parent custody if the parent is the primary care giver of the child. There are a few factors that are considered while making the determination of custody. The court will consider the relationship between the parents, which parent is fit to care for the child, if the parent who is traveling abroad will comply with the custody orders, and whether or not the country in which the parent will be traveling to have a treaty with the U.S. regarding custodial orders. At this time, there are no treaties between Jamaica and the Unites States regarding international parental abduction. This may be something that you could bring before the court in order to deny custody to the mother.

Can a father be charged with child abduction if he is the primary custodial parent? The child's mother threatened to file charges on the father for not sending the child for visitation.

If the father hasn't denied visitation to the child or not returned the child, he probably will not be charged with child abduction. However, he may be charged with not complying with a court order pertaining to the visitation schedule. If the custody agreement in the divorce decree states that the father must deliver the child to the mother, the father may have a problem, however, if the divorce decree doesn't state how the child will be delivered or who is responsible for the delivery, the father would have a reasonable excuse.

My husband and I live in Ireland with our children. I took the children to the US for a vacation and my husband remained in Ireland due to mental issues. If I choose to remain in the US with our children, will this be considered child abduction?

If you choose to remain in the U.S. and not return to Ireland, this would be considered child abduction. There is an international treaty in place between most countries due to this type of situation being so common. The treaty is named The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Basically, the treaty states that any child that has been removed from their homeland by wrongful acts and/or detained from their home should be returned. The United States and Ireland are both parties to the treaty. This means if your husband petitions for the children to be returned under the Hague treaty, more than likely you will have to return the children to Ireland. You could also face possible charges in Ireland for parental kidnapping.

Child abduction can devastate a family and leave parents with a sense of helplessness. Thousands of child abduction cases are filed every year in the United States and many of the children are abducted by a family member. If you have questions about child abduction, you should seek the insight of an Expert who is familiar with child abduction laws.
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