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International parental kidnappings are illegal in Washington

Parents in a toxic divorce may do whatever they feel is necessary to keep the other parent from having access to their children. This is a dangerous situation that may lead a parent to abduct the child out of Gig Harbor or even out of the nation. A custodial parent may wrongly abduct his or her child to keep the other parent from exercising his or her visitation rights, or the noncustodial parent may wrongly abduct his or her child, refusing to return the child to the custodial parent when his or her visitation period is over.

Parental abductions are illegal, period. It is against federal law to take a child out of the country for the purposes of keeping the other parent from exercising his or her custody rights. If a person commits an international parental kidnapping and is convicted, he or she could be sent to prison for as many as three years.

Although an international parental abduction can be prosecuted, the return of a child who has been abducted may be settled out-of-court through negotiations. If the country to which the child was abducted is part of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction, that Convention will govern the case. Parents may also need to cooperate with the U.S. Department of State in order to legally resolve the parental abduction case. Even though the parent from whom the child was abducted may feel desperate, he or she must still abide by the laws of the United States and of the country to which the child was abducted.

Parental kidnappings harm the child. The child is removed from his or her familiar surroundings, including his or her loved ones. The child may feel a sense of isolation. He or she may be forced to constantly move and could miss out on going to school. The abducting parent may go so far as to change the child's name in order to keep the child hidden. Finally, the animosity between the parents can cause a child much emotional suffering.

No child deserves to be abducted by a parent. If a parent has an issue with a child custody order, he or she may want to look into the possibility of having it modified instead. This may be in the best interests of all involved, especially the child.

Source: The United States Department of Justice, "International Parental Kidnapping," accessed Sept. 6, 2015

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