Parental Kidnapping

What is Parental Kidnapping?

Kidnapping is an unlawful act wherein someone takes another person against their will or coerces another person to leave with them and keeps them captive. A kidnapper can be a stranger to the victim or someone that is very close to the victim, such as a family member.

Parental kidnapping, also known as parental abduction, is a criminal act that typically occurs when a parent takes a child without the other parent’s permission in violation of a standing child custody order.

What are some Examples of Parental Kidnapping?

The key to determining whether or not a parental kidnapping has occurred is to establish if there is a valid court custody order that explains the parental rights of the legal parents or guardians of the child.

So, for example, assume Parent “B” does not have visitation or custodial rights during their child’s spring break from school. However, Parent “B” found a last-minute, bargain airline deal and wants to fly to a sunny destination with their child for a few days of their spring break.  Suppose Parent “B” contacts Parent “A” to let them know their plans. Parent “A” does not approve and states that Parent “B” cannot take the child during spring break. However, Parent “B” picks up their child early from soccer practice and proceeds with their plans to leave town with the child during their spring break. In this scenario, Parent “B” could be charged and found guilty of parental kidnapping.

If the scenario above slightly changed, the outcome may be very different. If the parents (“A” and “B”) were no longer together but never formalized a custodial agreement with the courts, Parent “B” would most likely not be charged with parental kidnapping. Without a court order stipulating the parental rights of each parent or guardian, Parents “A” and “B” have equal rights with regard to their child.

It is also important to note that the legal standing of a parent is also taken into consideration by the courts. If for instance, a couple has raised a child together, but one partner is not a biological parent and has never taken any formal legal action (such as adoption), they may not have any legal standing in the eyes of the court.