Parental Kidnapping: Breaking the Bonds of Parental Trust and Court-Awarded Custodial Agreement

parental-kidnappingWith the statistical measurement of divorce in the United States continually teetering at the 50 percent mark, mathematically that equates to more than one million children also affected by this steadfast statistic. Statistically and historically, children of divorce tend to experience difficulties in academics, social situations and psychological problems, often following them well into adulthood. Often these children also feel a great sense of abandonment by the absent parent, but, according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), although some may find it rare, instances of parental kidnapping do occur resulting in another disheartening circumstance of divorce.

The Child Exploitation Task Force, housed in all local FBI facilities, takes this matter very seriously and works endlessly to bring these innocent children home to the custodial parent but often these investigations lead them into foreign territory.

If you believe your child may have become victim to a parental kidnapping and your ex-spouse has violated the child custody order drafted by your family law attorney, the FBI provides the following information to better assist you with understanding your rights under the law and their involvement in the case.

To determine credibility or probability of parental kidnapping, under the 1982 Missing Children’s Act, any minor under the age of 18 whose whereabouts are unknown to the legal custodial parent may indicate that the minor was removed by the non-custodial parent without the custodial parent’s consent, or is the victim of abuse or is being sexually exploited.

If the missing minor is determined to possibly be the result of an unlawful parental kidnapping, the FBI is authorized to begin an investigation under the Fugitive Felon Act, Title 18, United States Code, Section 1073-UFAP.

Although Title 18 broadly covers fugitives, both interstate and internationally, the U.S. Congress declared that this statute also cover cases, both interstate and internationally if a parental kidnapping is suspected. Congress also evoked parameters enlisting not only the FBI but the assistance of all local and state law enforcement to arrest the offending parent and to bring the minor home. For the FBI to consult and drive the investigation the following criteria is to be met.

  • Probable cause of a parental kidnapping must be evident;
  • State law enforcement must have an outstanding warrant against the abductor;
  • State authorities must agree to extradite and prosecute in all U.S. locations;
  • Local prosecuting attorneys or law enforcement agencies submit a written request for FBI assistance; and
  • The U.S. Attorney must also authorize the filing of an official complaint.

Once a parental abduction case in underway, there are specific legal options that follow protocol. Two options are federally defined as criminal investigative options while one civil law may be pursued if a minor has been abducted by one parent and transported over the state line of the custodial parent’s domicile. These options are as follows:

  • The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993 or IPKCA whereas an arrest warrant can be issued for the offending parent who has transported a minor over state lines or outside the U.S. without custodial parental consent.
  • The Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution or UFAP is applied when criminal charges are filed by the state and is requesting full cooperation of the FBI covering both the U.S. and possible international locations.

Both the IPKCA and the UFAP facilitates not only the safe return of the minor to the custodial parent but also seeks criminal charges against the offending parent.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction supported by all participating nations provides a civil process designed to return abducted minors under the age of 16 to their home countries. This civil process only facilitates the return of the child but does not seek legal action against the offending parent.

The U.S Department State fields approximately 1,200 new Hague and non-Hague cases each year. If you are a custodial parent who believes your child has been kidnapped by the non-custodial parent, please contact your local FBI office or visit the Department of Justice’s International Parental Kidnapping webpage for more information but if you are just broaching the divorce decision and need the assistance of a skilled Hinsdale family law attorney who will draft a sound child custody agreement thwarting a possible parental abduction, contact the legal team of Martoccio & Martoccio today.


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