When you hear the word “kidnapping”, it’s common for your mind to come up with some of the more egregious examples, like the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping that claimed so much national media attention in the early 2000s. However, it may surprise you to learn that more than half of all kidnappings are not done by nefarious strangers; they are committed by family members of the child, almost always by a parent of the child.
As in any family that has been affected by divorce, often parental kidnapping stems more from custody disputes and familial conflicts than plain malice or ill will. But just because you are familiar with your child’s kidnapper does not negate the terror and horror you feel when you discover that your child is gone, harried across state lines by an impulsive parent or relative who will not take the proper care of them. In fact, the fear of a child being kidnapped has always dominated the minds of parents; a whopping 14% of parents in a 2017 study claimed that abduction was their biggest safety concern for their children.
Not all is doom and gloom, however. Just because this type of behavior is common doesn’t mean it’s impossible to prevent, nor does it come without its fair share of consequences for those accused. If you live in the United States, you should know that many laws can protect your family in the event of a parental kidnapping incident occurring.
Parental Kidnapping Prevention
One of the easiest ways to prevent parental kidnapping is to ensure that your child is able to communicate with you at all times in the event of an emergency, whether that is parental kidnapping or some other serious issue.
If your children are able to talk, they should also be able to use a cell phone specifically made for children and elderly adults, like the Jitterbug Flip model that is both cheap and popular. Most cell phones made for children won’t connect to the Internet, so you won’t have to worry about their browsing habits.
Another easy way to prevent issues is to stick strictly to your custody orders given by the courts and not deviate. Oftentimes, taking a child on the wrong day could be considered kidnapping per your court orders, and ensuring that you stick as close to the custody as possible is an easy way to keep track of your child’s movements, from the perspective of both parents. This also helps to lessen the tension between two divorced spouses, allowing the child to have an easier time as they grow and mature into a young adult.
Lastly, it’s essential that your children have some type of identification in the event of an extreme event, like being stranded out in the weather or taken by someone with bad intentions. Ensure that your children have up-to-date dental records and fingerprints to improve the chances of them being found after an abduction occurs.
What Are The Consequences of Parental Kidnapping?
As with all crimes, the degree of severity of the kidnapping crime will dictate its consequences. In Nevada, for instance, parental kidnapping is its own crime which carries a felony charge, up to $5,000 in fines, and one to four years in prison.
Those consequences only get steeper as the charges become more severe–taking a child under the age of 18 across state lines when you have no familial relationship or custody agreement with them can be charged as a federal crime, and in some cases perpetrators will receive up to twenty years in prison.
When dealing with an unruly or conflict-prone ex-spouse, it always pays to be prepared if you expect something to happen. Contact an attorney to ensure that your family is protected in the event that your ex-spouse or relatives ever decide to commit this manner of crime.