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Child kidnapping and child custody

This blog discusses a difficult subject, child kidnapping by a parent. Few kidnappings are stranger kidnappings along the lines of the famous Lindbergh baby kidnapping in 1920s New Jersey. Rather, they are often the result of a bitter divorce, child custody battle or paternity lawsuit gone horribly wrong. Stranger kidnappings represent far less than one percent of all incidents; of the approximately 260,000 abductions reported each year, only 115 of them were found to be stranger kidnappings.

According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, of the 260,000 children abducted, about a fifth of them were taken by non-family members known to them; the other four-fifths were abducted by family members, many of whom were involved in a dispute with the other parent.

Parents, whether married, divorced or separated, who take a child away from the other parent are almost certainly violating the law in Massachusetts or anywhere else in the United States. Generally speaking, the taking of a child by one parent is considered parental kidnapping after considering the legal status of the parent who takes the child; the court orders governing child custody; and the intent of the parent who took the child.

Taking a child does not usually involve stealing into the house in the dead of night and climbing down a ladder with the child. It can be much simpler. Typically, one parent does not return the child as agreed after a visit or vacation that was part of the parenting plan.

Even when you know that the other parent took the child, getting him or her back is not always easy. This is especially true when the parent flees to another country. The laws regarding child custody and parenting differ in each country. The U.S. State Department maintains an office that parents can call upon to learn about the law in the destination country and get help locating the child.

Kidnapping is the ultimate result of a child custody dispute. In most cases, the parent doing the kidnapping is not thinking about the welfare of the child but of his or her own ego and feelings bruised by the breakup of the relationship or marriage. In a few instances, of course, removing a child from an abusive parent is the only option. In most cases, however, this can be done legally through the Probate and Family Court system.

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