Key steps when a custody dispute turns into abduction

In a child custody dispute, it is often a parent's worst nightmare that the other parent will take the child, never to be seen again. While parental kidnapping is rare, is not unheard of and thus parents in the midst of a custody dispute or heated divorce may want to learn what steps they can take if the unthinkable should happen.

First, it's important to know that not all cases of parental abduction involve an intentional breaking of the law - at least, not at first. In some situations a parent may truly believe it is his or her parental right to take their own child for relocation or travel. However, California law stipulates that child custody agreements must be followed or else the parent who disobeys the agreement may face stiff penalties or even criminal charges. This is also true when a parent deliberately breaks the law and takes his or her child out of the area, across state lines or even across international borders in order to keep the child away from the other parent. In 2014, there were over 430 new reported cases of international parental abduction, according to the U.S. Department of State.

In any case, the non-abducting parent is likely to be in a state of extreme panic. There are several steps one can take in the event of a suspected parental kidnapping or international abduction, though. The first step typically involves reaching out to local authorities to report the abduction. A violation of a court order is likely to be taken very seriously by California authorities. After contacting authorities it can be very reassuring and proactive to secure a lawyer's services. It may be wise to deliberately seek out an attorney who has already successfully resolved child custody disputes across borders.

Another thing concerned parents can do is find out if the country where the child was taken - or likely taken - is party to the Hague Convention, an international treaty that can aid children who are wrongfully retained in a foreign land. An experienced Orange County child custody attorney can answer questions about the Hague Convention and whether or not it applies to one's case.