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How can a court order help prevent a parental abduction?

Parents often feel like they have an intrinsic right to do whatever they desire with their own children. However, this is actually not the case in many situations. Parents who were never married or who got divorced may not see eye-to-eye, and then each parent has to respect the other person's rights.

In extreme cases, one parent may attempt to abduct his or her own child and leave the United States. A court order can be used to prevent this, so it is important that parents understand their rights and take steps to protect them before an issue arises.

For example, the court order may:

  • Prohibit any travel outside of U.S. borders for the child
  • Require that all time spent with the other parent is supervised
  • Allow a trip, but specify the date on which that trip may begin and end
  • Make it mandatory for a child's passport to be held by a neutral third party or by a court
  • Require that any travel outside of the country -- or even the state -- be done only after getting court approval

If this court order is on file and the other parent tries to violate it, authorities may then be able to step in and stop the trip or the abduction before that parent leaves the country entirely. Without it, even when one parent complains, there is little that the authorities can do that quickly.

Parents who worry should also know about the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP). If a passport application is submitted in the child's name, the parent then gets an alert. This application may indicate that the other parent is planning an abduction.

Are you concerned about a possible parental abduction or has one already occurred? Either way, it is critical to understand all of your legal options.

Source: U.S. Department of State, "Child Abduction Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April 19, 2018

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