What Is Family Abduction

A Family Abduction occurs when a child is taken, wrongfully retained, or concealed by a parent or other family member depriving another individual of their custody or visitation rights. In some circumstances family abductions can be considered a crime under federal or state law, and criminal statutes vary across the country about what conduct is considered unlawful.

There are a number of preventative steps parents may choose to take if they fear that a family member may attempt to abduct their child.

  • Obtain a custody determination from the court which specifically outlines custody and visitation rights.
  • Request that the judge include abduction-prevention measures in a description of the visitation rights such as supervised visitation, posting a bond, entering a child’s name in the Passport Issuance Alert Program, and surrendering a child’s passport to the court.
  • Advise the child’s school or daycare of custody orders, flag passport applications for your child, and have children memorize essential information such as home address and phone number in case of emergencies.
  • If a court order prohibits the child’s removal from the country, enroll him/her in the “Prevent Departure” Program

Risk Factors

NCMEC has found that certain conditions may increase the risk that a family member may abduct a child. However, the absence of any of the following does not mean that an abduction will not occur. These risk factors include having a family member who:

  • Has previously abducted or threatened to abduct a child
  • Has a history of marital instability, lack of cooperation with the other parent, domestic violence, or child abuse
  • Has a criminal record
  • Has stronger ties to a different state, province, or country than those to where s/he currently resides
  • Has no job, can work anywhere, or is financially independent
  • Is engaged in planning activities such as quitting a job, selling a home, closing accounts, hiding or destroying documents, purchasing travel tickets for your child, altering their appearance, or applying for renewed or duplicate documents for the child such as;
    • New passports or visas
    • Birth certificates
    • School or medical records