Child Abduction Law - Child Kidnapping Law

Child Abduction is the offense of wrongfully removing or wrongfully retaining, detaining or concealing a child or baby. Abduction is defined as taking away a person by persuasion, by fraud, or by open force or violence. There are two types of child abduction: parental child abduction and abduction by a stranger. Parental child abductions are the most common type.

When one parent abducts his/her child(ren) from the other parent it is often during or after a divorce action and is meant to circumvent the court or act in defiance of a court order regarding legal custody of the child(ren). Parental child abductions may occur within the same city, within the same state, country, or internationally.

What is Child Abduction Law? Laws regarding parental abductions vary. In some states and countries this is a criminal offense, but not in all. In many U.S. states, if there is no formal custody order and the parents are not living together, the “abduction” of the child from the other parent is not considered a criminal offense. However, many states have made the abduction of a child across state lines by a parent a crime. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) drafted the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act in an effort to bring state law uniformity to this issue.

When a stranger abducts a child, it can be for different reasons: abuse; torture; murder; extortion; ransom; or to raise the child as his/her own. Stranger child abductions are the least common.

Although these terms are often used interchangeably, abduction is generally distinguished from kidnapping, because kidnapping requires the use or the threat of force when taking and/or holding the kidnapping victim.

Congress has enacted many civil and criminal laws to address abductions, kidnapping, interstate and international child custody and visitation disputes. The U.S. is also a party to a treaty aimed at resolving international child abduction cases.


Child Abduction Law - US

  • ABA - Center on Children and the Law

    The States signatory to the present Convention, firmly convinced that the interests of children are of paramount importance in matters relating to their custody, desiring to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention and to establish procedures to ensure their prompt return to the State of their habitual residence, as well as to secure protection for rights of access.

  • Child Abduction - Wikipedia

    Child abduction is the abduction or kidnapping of a child (or baby) by an older person. Several distinct forms of child abduction exist: i) A stranger removes a child for criminal purposes: for child sexual abuse, torture, or murder, for extortion, to elicit a ransom from the child's caretakers. ii) A stranger removes a child, usually a baby, with the intent to rear the child as their own. iii) A parent removes or retains a child from the other parent's care (often in the course of or after divorce proceedings).

  • Convention on the Rights of the Child

    Reaffirming that children's rights require special protection and call for continuous improvement of the situation of children all over the world, as well as for their development and education in conditions of peace and security.

  • Federal Parent Locator Service

    The Federal Parent Locator Service is available in all custody cases and makes the federal Fugitive Felony Act applicable to interstate child abductions.

  • International Child Abduction Remedies

    The Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, done at The Hague on October 25, 1980, establishes legal rights and procedures for the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed or retained, as well as for securing the exercise of visitation rights. Children who are wrongfully removed or retained within the meaning of the Convention are to be promptly returned unless one of the narrow exceptions set forth in the Convention applies.

  • International Parental Kidnapping

    Whoever removes a child from the United States, or attempts to do so, or retains a child (who has been in the United States) outside the United States with intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both.

  • Missing Childrens Act

    Requires law enforcement to enter complete descriptions of missing children into NCIC, even if the abductor has not been charged with a crime.

  • Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act

    The purpose of the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act is to deter both predecree and postdecree domestic and international child abductions by parents, persons acting on behalf of a parent or others. Family abductions may be preventable through the identification of risk factors and the imposition of appropriate preventive measures.

Child Abduction - International

  • Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

    The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty, which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return. The "Child Abduction Section" provides information about the operation of the Convention and the work of the Hague Conference in monitoring its implementation and promoting international co-operation in the area of child abduction.

  • International Child Abduction - Australia

    The International Child Abduction News is a newsletter which aims to provide coverage of recent developments in international parental child abduction. The News is produced in the International Family Law Section of the Australian Government Attorney-General's Department. The purpose of the News is to provide general information and not legal advice. Every care is taken in the preparation of the News but readers are advised to check the details of any legislation, cases or other material in it.

  • International Child Abduction Database (INCADAT)

    The International Child Abduction Database (INCADAT) has been established by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference with the object of making accessible many of the leading decisions taken by national courts in respect of the 1980 Hague Convention. INCADAT is used by judges, Central Authorities, legal practitioners, researchers and others interested in this rapidly developing branch of law. INCADAT has already contributed to the promotion of mutual understanding and good practice, essential elements in the effective operation of the 1980 Convention.

  • International Child Abduction Remedies Act (Icara)

    Establishes procedures to implement the Hague Abduction Convention; empowers state and federal courts to hear cases under the Convention and allows the Central Authority access to information in certain America records regarding the location of a child and an abducting parent

  • International Child Abduction Websites

    Links to central authorities in several countries designated under the 1980 Child Abduction Convention.

  • Latin America: Hague Convention and Argentina

    The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was ratified by Argentina effective June 1, 1991. The Central Authority for the Convention in Argentina is the Dirección General de Asuntos Jurídicos-Dirección de Asistencia Judicial Internacional of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Commerce and Worship.

  • Latin American Judges’ Seminar on the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

    Special issue of the Judges Newsletter.

Child Abduction - Europe

  • Child Abduction: Case Management in Practice - UK

    Miscellaneous practical issues confront practitioners in disputes where there is a risk of child abduction, or it has already occurred.

  • Divorce and parental responsibility mutual recognition of family law decisions throughout the EU

    The new Regulation contains certain rules on child abduction. It aims at dissuading child abduction within the Community by ensuring that the courts of the Member State of the child's residence before the abduction have the final say to decide where the child shall stay. Moreover, the Regulation complements and reinforces the system created by the The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on child abduction by imposing stricter obligations to assure the prompt return of a child in cases of child abduction between Member States.

  • Implications of European Union Regulation on Hague Convention On International Child Abduction

    In the European Union (E.U.), a community composed of multicultural and multiethnic societies, where citizens move freely across borders, the abduction of children is a growing problem. Frequently, abductions occur among E.U. citizens, residents of a particular Member State, who decide either to wrongfully remove or illegally retain a child in the territory of another E.U. Member State.

  • International Child Abduction and Custody Act - Malta

    The Child Abduction and Custody Act (Cap 410) was adopted by Parliament to ratify the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980) and the European Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Concerning Custody and on Restoration of Custody of Children (1980).

  • Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights on the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction

    In recent years the European Court of Human Rights has decided quite a significant number of cases and this has certainly helped improve one of the weaknesses of the Convention – the lack of clarity about how return orders are to be enforced. The Court has also added weight to the duties on Central Authorities in Article 7 of the Hague Convention, to the requirement of acting expeditiously in Article 11 and reinforced the significance of the prohibition on deciding custody rights before a return order in Article 16.

Child Abduction - Asia

  • Child Abduction - Taiwan

    Taiwan is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Hague Convention is by far the most significant international treaty pertaining to the prevention of international child abduction. Indeed, at least 74 countries are party to the Convention, including the United States. The failure of a country to become a party to the Convention sends an extremely strong signal that the country’s legal institutions will not cause an abducted child to be returned to her habitual residence.

  • Child Protection Policy Unit - Hong Kong

    The Child Abduction and Custody Ordinance, Cap. 512, was enacted in 1997 to give effect in Hong Kong to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction signed in October 1980. CPPU is responsible for coordinating all requests from the Central Authorities, i.e. Secretary for Justice, for assistance in handling abduction cases in which a child has been wrongfully retained or removed from custodial care or his/her habitual place of residence.

  • Law in Singapore on Child Abduction

    This article analyses the approach taken by Singapore's criminal and family laws when a child is taken away by one parent without consent of the other parent to another jurisdiction. International efforts to ameliorate the difficulties faced by the left-behind parent in tracing the whereabouts of the child and obtaining his or her return come in the form of the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

  • Parental Abduction in Japan

    In international parental abduction cases brought to court, Japan claims that parental abduction is not a crime. Courts up to the Supreme Court of Japan routinely refuse to return children to foreign parents with legal custody already ordered by foreign courts. Foreign courts in the country the children were living at the time the Japanese parent abducted them. Thus the Japanese government believes that its own citizens should be allowed to abduct children from other countries with impunity.

  • The Berlin Commitment for Children of Europe and Central Asia

    Recognising that considerable progress has been achieved during the past decade in fulfilling the rights of the child throughout Europe and Central Asia, in particular with regard to commitments taken at the 1990 World Summit for Children and the obligations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, universally ratified by countries of Europe and Central Asia.

  • Why the Child Abduction Protocol Negotiations Should Not Deflect Singapore from Acceding to the 1980 Hague Abduction Convention

    Presently, there are active negotiations concerning the creation of a ChildAbduction Protocol between Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and New Zealand. Although signing up to this proposed Protocol would be an important step for Singapore in combating international parental child abduction, it is argued in this article that it should not be regarded as a substitute for Singapore acceding to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980. The article draws on a study made at the Singapore Family Registry in 2006 and makes a statistical comparison between those cases and those made under the Hague Abduction Convention in 2003.

Organizations Related to Child Abduction Law

  • Childabduction.EU

    We dedicate ourselves to recovering internationally abducted children. International child abduction generally concerns a child who has been taken by one parent away from the other. Sometimes it concerns a child who has been taken by grandparents, family members or others, away from the parent(s). That child has been then taken - without authorisation or against existing agreements - to a foreign country. You can also talk of international child abduction if the child is not brought back or returned home on time.

  • Committee for Missing Children

    The first phase of our mission deals with parent advocacy. We want to ensure that parents of missing and abducted children receive all the help they deserve and that the rights of parents are protected. Today there are no laws that give a parent control over the search for their own children.

  • European Parliament Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction

    The post of the European Parliament Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction was created in 1987 on the initiative of Lord Plumb, in order to help children from binational marriages that have broken down who have been abducted by one or other parent.

  • International Centre Centre for Missing & Exploited Children

    In April 2003, the International Centre Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC)and the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law entered into a formal partnership to focus on the following strategies to bring about positive changes for the benefit of children and families.

  • National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

    The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) mission is to help prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation; help find missing children; and assist victims of child abduction and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them.

  • Prevent International Parental Child Abduction

    Prevent International Parental Child Abduction (PIPCA) was formed by Teresa Lauderdale, Cathy Brown, and Nina Lauderdale to help protect children from international parental child abduction, and to increase awareness of the tragedy of international abduction and of preventive measures that can be ordered by a Court when a child is at risk of abduction. PIPCA can assist in arranging training, expert testimony, and general advice on this issue.

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