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What can you do about parental abduction?

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If you’re in the middle of a bitter custody fight with an ex that seems like he or she will stop at nothing to win, the fear of a parental abduction has probably crossed your mind a few times.

It’s almost impossible not to think of the possibility. Amber alerts go out all the time across cellphones, televisions and radios due to parental abductions during custody fights.

Is there anything you can do to mitigate the risks? Experts say that it helps to understand the motivations of parents who abduct their own children despite knowing the immense risks and the challenges they’ll face later living on the run:

  • They’re simply afraid of losing all custody or visitation of the child
  • They believe that the other parent is abusive and dangerous to the child
  • They want to punish the other parent for leaving
  • They want to try to force the other parent to interact with them or possibly reconcile (so it is a way of getting attention)

Keeping these in mind, here are the things experts suggest you do to diffuse a potential abduction:

  • Give a little: Unless you have a really compelling reason, try to be cordial about facilitating visitation time between the child and the other parent. That can reduce the other parent’s fears and thus his or her motivation to abduct.
  • Try to stay friendly, even if you don’t want to do it: Since you will likely have to maintain contact with the other parent still for a long time, it is wise to be on good terms if you can.
  • Ask the other parent to go to counseling: A counselor or mediator can often stop a situation from escalating.
  • Report any threats of abduction to the police and your attorney: Document them and preserve any evidence of the threats, including texts, voicemail and emails.

One method that is often helpful in reducing abductions is an “interference prevention” clause in a custody order. Both you and the other parent will have to post a bond. If either of you abducts the child, the money goes to the other parent to help with recovery. That often both deters and reassures a parent thinking of abduction.

Child custody cases are fraught with tension — everything you can do to reduce that tension will keep your child safer.

Source:, “When the kidnapper is a family member,” accessed May 25, 2018

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