Parental child abduction is the removal or retention of a child outside of their habitual residence in breach of another parent or guardian’s custody rights. This can be a deeply distressing and complex issue that can lead to intricate legal battles.
At Masters Law Group, we’ve witnessed the anguish and legal complexities that arise in such situations. We believe that the best approach is proactive prevention. Today, we will shed light on some red flags you should be aware of when it comes to parental child abduction, and provide actionable steps to take if your child is at risk.
Before we begin, if you are facing a family abduction matter, call the police immediately. These cases are treated very seriously, and many AMBER alerts stem from family abductions. Even where the child may not face an imminent threat of physical harm, law enforcement will treat these types of abductions as high priorities and will work to return the child to his or her parent.
Here is what you need to know.
STATISTICS ON PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION
Most children abducted today are not taken by strangers, they are taken by their parents. The motivations behind parental child abduction can vary widely, from custody disputes to cultural differences. To gain a deeper understanding of these motivations, consider these statistics:
- Approximately eight out of every ten parents who choose to abduct their child do so to affect custodial privileges permanently.
- Three out of every four parents who choose to abduct their children do so to limit contact between the child and the custodial parent.
- Approximately 65% of parents that abduct their children and just recently had a change in their visitation rights.
- 15% of children who are abducted by a parent were taken from another relative or foster parents.
RED FLAGS FOR PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION
Being able to identify the red flags that signal parental child abduction is crucial when it comes to preventing these heartbreaking scenarios. Here are some key indicators to be aware of:
- Threats and Previous Incidents: Taking any previous threats of hiding your child is vital, as these behaviors can escalate to abduction.
- Weak Ties to Current Location: Parents with limited connections to their current community, unstable employment, or distant family may feel more inclined to relocate with the child.
- Strong Affiliation with Another Country: Keep an eye on parents with strong emotional or familial ties to another country, especially if they have lived there previously or frequently express a desire to return.
- Recent Unexplained Changes in Behavior: Sudden and unexplained actions like quitting a job, selling property, closing bank accounts, or applying for passports or visas should raise concerns, as they could indicate plans for abduction.
- History of Relationship Struggles or Domestic Violence: In some cases, parents who perceive themselves as wronged in the relationship may resort to abduction as a means of retaliation. Understanding this history can help identify potential risks early on.
By recognizing these red flags, we can take proactive steps to protect our children and prevent the devastating consequences of parental child abduction.
STEPS TO TAKE IF YOU SUSPECT A RISK
The unsettling possibility of parental child abduction is a stark reality for some families. Recognizing the warning signs and proactively safeguarding your child’s well-being is essential. Below, you’ll find critical steps to follow if you suspect the risk of abduction:
- Collecting Evidence: Documenting any threats or unusual behavior is a crucial first step in building a solid case to protect your child. Saving relevant electronic communications can provide invaluable evidence.
- Alerting Authorities: If you believe an abduction is coming, informing law enforcement and legal authorities is critical.
- Consulting with a Family Law Attorney: A family law attorney with experience in parental abduction matters is highly recommended. They can guide you through the complex legal processes.
INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION CASES
Sometimes, a parent will attempt to take their child out of their home country. This can add even more complexity to an already sensitive and difficult situation. The Hauge Convention was enacted into law through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA) which provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed or retained may petition for the child’s return to their country of habitual residence. This method has proven safe and highly effective in reuniting these children with their families.
WORKING WITH A CHILD ABDUCTION ATTORNEY
Parental child abduction is a serious matter that requires proactive attention and sensitivity. By staying vigilant and recognizing the warning signs, you can take steps to help prevent it. At Masters Law Group, our family law attorneys are here to provide you with legal knowledge and support during these challenging times.
Legal matters often come with complexities and long-lasting implications for all parties involved. A family law attorney can streamline these processes, helping expedite your legal concerns. Beyond their grasp of the law, child abduction attorneys offer personalized strategic advice tailored to your unique circumstances.
Our child abduction attorneys have achieved multiple successful parental child abduction cases, including:
- Efthymiou v. Labonte, Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law
- Sulcaite, Memorandum Opinion, and Order
- Ho, Memorandum Opinion and Order
- Hinnendael, Decision, and Order
Parental child abduction cases are complex, and the stakes are high. Seeking the assistance of a child abduction attorney is a crucial step in helping to ensure the safe recovery of your child. Taking swift action is necessary if you ever face a child abduction scenario.
If your child is taken across national borders, initiate a Hague Convention application with your attorney immediately.
Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph are highly experienced in handling disputes related to international parental child abduction, particularly within the jurisdiction of the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system.
Voted 2023’s Best Lawyers® in America 2023, Masters Law Group is focused on achieving the best possible result for our clients and, more importantly, any children involved.