Family abductions bring into play civil and criminal laws at state, national and international levels. There are several types of parental abduction. Sometimes, a parent may flee with a child temporarily, hoping to gain an advantage in a custody dispute to parents or hoping to find more favorable laws in another state. [Some states, for example, have mandatory joint custody laws.] Other times, a parent who has lost a child custody battle in one state may cross state or international lines, hoping to find a friendlier court that will modify the custody order. Other times, a parent takes a child intending to permanently deprive the other parent of parental rights.
Most states have laws that impose civil or criminal liability that are triggered by the failure of a parent, after a period of 24 hours to a number of days, to release a child to a parent who is entitled to custody. You can check out the laws of all 50 states here.
The Family Resource Guide on International Parental Abduction, published by the Department of Justice, is an invaluable resource for lawyers and familes alike. Download Family Resource Guide on International Parental Abduction
“Family Abduction: Prevention and Response” is a 128-page resource published by The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the U.S. Department of State, Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention in cooperation with the American Bar Association. Parents who have experienced a family abduction will find step-by-step information in this Fourth Edition. The materials relate to both domestic and international abductions. Parents will find guidance to help them understand both the civil and criminal justice systems and the laws that are available to help them. Some parents know that there is a risk for parental abduction. This handbook provides detailed instructions to help them devise prevention strategies. In addition, suggestions for supportive care following an abduction are provided. Search and recovery strategies are also discussed thoroughly.
Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. A person now applying for a passport for a child who is a U.S. citizen under the age of 14 must show that both parents consent to the issuance or that the applying parent has sole authority to obtain the passport. All passport applications, whether made in the U.S. or at consular offices abroad, are covered by the new law. Certain special family circumstances or exigent circumstances, such as a need for urgent medical care, necessitating the immediate travel of the child are exceptions to this law. You can read more about this and other important information related to prevention of and response to parental abduction on the website of the U.S. Department of State.
The following are some of the laws, which may be implicated in a parental abduction case:
- Extradition Treaties Interpretation Act of 1998: This law authorizes the United States to interpret extradition treaties, which cover the offense of “kidnapping,” to include parental abduction cases.
- The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction (Hague Convention): Requires member states to return children who are unlawfully removed or retained to their country of habitual residence. A list of signatory countries to the Hague Convention can be accessed here.
- International Child Abductions Remedy Act (ICARA): The legislation that implements the Hague Convention in the United States.
- International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993 (IPKCA): The IPKCA makes international child abduction a federal felony and imposes criminal fines and/or imprisonment on anyone who removes a child from the United States unlawfully or unlawfully retains a child in a foreign country.
- Parental Kidnapping and Prevention Act as amended by the Visitation Rights Enforcement Act (PKPA): The PKPA is a federal statute, which applies full faith and credit principles to child custody and parenting time orders issued in substantial conformity with its jurisdictional and notice requirements. The PKPA does not require a parental kidnapping to take effect and is applicable to all custody and parenting time proceedings that involve out-of-state decrees.
- Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA): The Uniform Law Commissioners promulgated the UCCJEA in 1997 to replace the UCCJA. The UCCJEA is a state statute which governs subject matter jurisdiction over child custody and parenting time determinations and which provides for interstate enforcement mechanisms of child custody and parenting time determinations. The UCCJEA took effect in Michigan on April 1, 2002. You can read MCL 722.1101 et seq. here. According to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform state laws, as of June 2007, 46 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have now adopted the UCCJEA. For a current update on state adoptions, check the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws web site at: http://www.nccusl.org.
- Michigan’s parental kidnapping statute. This law, MCL 750.350a, makes it a crime for an adoptive or natural parent of a child to take the child, or retain the child for more than 24 hours, with the intent to detain or conceal the child from the following:
any other parent or legal guardian of the child who has custody or parenting time rights under a lawful court order at the time of the taking or retention,
the person or persons who have adopted the child, or
any other person having lawful charge of the child at the time of the taking or retention.
In Michigan, parental kidnapping is a felony punishable by 1 year in jail, a fine of $2,000 or both. If this is a first time offender, probation is allowed. Restitution for the expenses that the person entitled to custody incurs in recovering the child is discretionary, unlike the mandatory attorney fees and costs incurred under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Compare MCL 750.350a(3) with MCL 722.1311.
Depending upon the specific circumstances of your case, your attorney will help you evaluate your options looking at both preventative and responsive measures. You will find other valuable resources on my website.
You'll find many other valuable resources on my website http://parental-kidnapping.com. If your child is missing, please contact me to see if I can assist you or your attorney in recovery. I've consulted in many interstate parental kidnappings -- 7 in the past 12 months alone -- and can walk your attorney through the process even if Michigan is not one of the states involved. You can email me [email protected] or call me at 231-223-7864 or 231-649-2140.