How to Prevent a Parental Abduction

Parental Abduction

The abduction of a child is high on the list of things every parent fears most. When a child is missing and the clues are limited or absent, the fear, dread, and anguish can be all-consuming. Any parent would agree that preventing a child’s abduction is better than experiencing one, even if it is an abduction by the other parent.


Unfortunately, when parents separate, it is often on disagreeable terms. When this happens, the duty of sharing the responsibility of caring for a mutual child can become an extreme challenge. If one parent is dead set against maintaining an agreeable co-parenting relationship, it can be disastrous for the child, and a parental abduction is a very real possibility.


The Reality of Parental Abductions


The vast majority of abductions are perpetrated by a member of the family, usually the other parent. When this happens, the parent who takes the child is likely to attempt to hide the location of the child from the left-behind parent. Anyone who is on unfriendly terms with the left-behind parent should consider the other parent to be the most likely culprit.


Preventing a Parental Abduction

In many cases, if a parent intends to abduct the child, the left-behind parent may have no legal way to prevent it. When co-parents share split custody, a parent who is willing to kidnap the child will also be likely to make false accusations against the left-behind parent in order to give them time to take the child and leave the city or state, or even to take them to a foreign country.


However, there are ways to reduce the time and opportunity that the abducting parent may have to carry out their abduction plan. Further, there are ways to make the job of the police easier in the unfortunate event that an abduction should take place.


  1. Have legal custody documents on hand and in order. Create backup copies and store them securely. This should be done if there appears to be a problem in the marriage. Oftentimes, the abducting parent may take the original copies of these documents when they flee.


  1. Have photos that can serve to identify the child. Make sure the photos are clear, crisp, and in good condition. Make copies and store them securely as well.


  1. Keep the dental and medical records of your child up to date.


  1. If you believe a parental abduction is likely, be wary of allowing your child to go to any location where the abducting parent knows the child will be vulnerable like a mall or favorite playground. Set boundaries where your child may not go if you feel it is a risk and you are unable to supervise them in those locations


  1. Make a priority of online safety. A parent should be aware of what their child is accessing online, and should be sure that they are not sharing their location with the public. Would-be abductors can know what websites a child visits and use an anonymous profile to attempt to trick the child into going out unsupervised.


  1. If you believe the other parent may make false accusations against you, insist that you are never to be alone with them. Having witnesses to each and every interaction is critical to avoiding a false domestic abuse accusation. In the absence of a witness, police will usually assume the accusation is true, arrest the accused, and hand the child over to the accuser.


  1. If your child goes to public school or daycare, is watched by a nanny, or is ever under the care of anyone other than you, make sure that the care provider understands you are the only person who is permitted to pick the child up during your period of shared custody.


Finally, understand that many people do not take parental abductions seriously, even police. You may need to be persistent in pursuing charges or a bench order from a family court judge. You may be forced to visit and revisit your local police and family court, and you may receive a great deal of resistance. Do your best to keep a level head. Do not lose your temper. Document everything. Study parental rights and abduction law. Seek legal counsel, and never, ever give up on your child.

The Committee for Missing Children specializes in providing the left-behind parent with guidance and resources to help reunite the left-behind parent recover their children.