Parental kidnapping is far more common than you might think. According to the Department of Justice, in 2002 more than 200,000 children were kidnapped by a family member. Parental kidnapping isn’t always sudden; it can happen when a parent has permission to travel with children and does not bring them back. If you feel like there is any risk of your child being abducted by your ex (or one of his relatives) it’s important to stay vigilant. Here are several ways that you can work to prevent parental kidnapping during your divorce proceedings — or make it easier to locate your child in the event of an abduction.
- Don’t wait to get a temporary protective order. If your divorce has just started and you can’t get a temporary order, get an order that at least documents your custody rights. Even though it’s only a piece of paper, it will ensure that law enforcement and the courts are on your side in the event of an incident or dispute. A court order may also cause your spouse to think twice before doing anything foolish.
- Make sure you have current contact information for your ex’s parents, friends, other family and business associates.
- Keep identifying information on your ex, such as a current photograph, passport number, social security number, bank information, and automobile information. .
- Keep identifying information about your children, such as color photographs and physical descriptions. You can even take your children to a local police department to get a set of fingerprints. This makes it easier for police departments to identify children if they get taken to another state.
- Make sure that your children know how to use the phone, and that they have your phone number memorized. Tell them to call you if anything unusual happens.
- Consider hiring a PI. If you are highly concerned that your spouse may take the kids in the near future, you might want to hire a private investigator to follow along on visits.
In the event of a kidnapping,
- Contact your attorney immediately. If your ex has taken the children out of state your attorney will contact the district attorney immediately for nationwide assistance. The Federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act applies to all interstate custody disputes. If a court order was violated, your attorney or the district attorney will have access to the Parent Locator Service, and the district attorney of the place where your children might have been taken will cooperate in returning them.
- If you have the original custody order, your state is presumed to have continuing power, even if your spouse has obtained a custody order in a different state.
- Even if your spouse takes the kids before you have received a court order, you still have legal remedies. If you have a right to custody, the other parent is not legally allowed to deprive you of that right with malicious intent. Go directly to the police in this case.