Parental guidelines in case you are considering family separation

Although abductions by nonfamily members receive more public attention, a significant number of child abductions are committed by family members or noncustodial parents -commonly called parental kidnapping. Contrary to what many think, a parental kidnapping can have a deeply traumatic effect on the child, who suffers the consequences of being uprooted from the home, deprived of the other parent, and forced to spend a life on the run.

Often the act of parental kidnapping is provoked by the breakup of the child's father and mother. Other events that may lead to a parental kidnapping include the actual courtfiling of divorce papers; the remarriage or serious emotional involvement of one parent with another partner; and conflict over child support, child custody, or visitation. If you are considering divorce, separation, or dissolving a non-marital partnership, or are going through any of the other events that may lead to a parental kidnapping, you may need to consider making provisions for the safety of your children.

This page describes the actions both parents can take to prepare in the event that their child is abducted, prevention provisions to include in the custody decree, and steps to take to recover a kidnapped child.

Preparation and Prevention

The most important means of prevention is one that you must work on every day: a healthy communication with your children. Repeatedly assure your children that you love them. Tell them that you always want to see them, no matter what anyone else says. Teach you children your telephone number and area code and how to dial the telephone. Instruct them how to contact your family or a close friend. Establish in your home an atmosphere of trust and support so that your children will feel secure in discussing with you situations that may have made them afraid.

If you feel that a parental kidnapping is likely, keep lists of information about your former partner, such as his or her Social Insurance Number, driver's license number, car registration number, checking and savings account numbers, and other information that may be of assistance in locating the abductor. Be discreet in obtaining this information so that you do not provoke a kidnapping or cause your partner to change these pieces of identification.

There are several steps you should take to be prepared in case your child is abducted. Keep a complete written description of your child, including hair and eye color, height, weight, date of birth, and specific physical attributes. Take color photographs of your child every six months. Head and shoulder portraits from different angles, such as those taken by school photographers, are preferable.

Do not ignore threats of abduction made by the other parent - they may indicate a growing frustration that may motivate him or her to disappear with the child. It may help to consult a family counselor to explore the problems of co-parenting and abduction fears.