Parental Kidnapping

Parental Kidnapping can seem like a contradiction, since a parent is supposed to make decisions for the best interest of the child.  Unfortunately, cases affecting the parent-child relationship, or even family issues between parents tend to lead to parental kidnapping.  The Polly Klass Foundation, a national non-profit for the safety of children, estimates 9% of all children who go missing are kidnapped by a family member as part of a custody dispute.  However, Texas law protects against parental kidnapping. Consult with a family law attorney who can advise you on the best course of action for you case and if you should file a suit for parental kidnapping.

Attorney for Parental Kidnapping in Brownsville, Texas

Parental kidnapping can be common during custody battles or even a dissolution of marriage suit.  If you suspect the other parent may attempt to kidnap your child(ren) as a form of revenge or defense against your custody battle, you should take the proper steps to prevent it.  Speak to a family law attorney right away.  If there is ground for filing a suit, the family law team of The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. can represent you.

Depending on the stage of your child custody case or child custody determination case, the court can authorize law enforcement to intervene if necessary.  The attorneys at The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. are familiar with Texas Family Code and Penal code injunctions associated with parental kidnapping.  Let them assess your case to see what measures need to be taken to prevent kidnapping or retrieve your child from the other parent.

Call 956-504-2211 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys to advise you on what to do next.  We work with clients in the counties of Cameron, Willacy, and Hidalgo.  

Overview of Parental Kidnapping

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What is Considered Parental Kidnapping?

Parental Kidnapping is the name given to a parent deciding to act out of his or her jurisdiction in regard to the possession and conservatorship of a child.  Because an individual with no rights over a child can be charged with standard kidnapping, knowing whether a parent has any rights over the child is necessary to file a parental kidnapping case.  Unfortunately, if custody does not favor either parent, child custody must be first established before claiming a parental kidnapping case.  Parental kidnapping most commonly takes place during:

  • A child custody suit that is pending; or
  • A final child-custody determination favoring one parent over the other.

If the other parent is violating his or her custody/conservatorship order, he or she is acting on contempt, and an attorney can request a warrant for the other parent. Though local parental kidnapping is not explicitly stated, Tex. Fam. Code 42.002 addresses interference of any child possessing, by stating:

  • A person who takes or retains possession of a child or who conceals the whereabouts of a child in violation of a possessory right of another person may be liable for damages to that person.
  • A possessory right is violated by the taking, retention, or concealment of a child at a time when another person is entitled to possession of or access to the child.

Because Texas is a border-state, the state has taken strict measures, against international parental child abduction.  Tex. Fam. Code 153.502 determines the following as potential risk factors for international parental child abduction:

  • The parent threatens to or removes or conceals a child in violation of another person’s right of possession of or access to the child, unless the parent proves the act was done in an effort to protect the child from harm;
  • The parent lacks financial reason to stay in the U.S. (i.e., unemployed, financially independent, ability to work outside the U.S.);
  • The parent shows evidence in planning activities to facilitate removal of the child (i.e., liquidating assets, selling primary residence, quitting job, closing bank account, obtaining travel documents for the child, etc.);
  • The parent has history of domestic violence;
  • The parent has history of a criminal history or history of violating court orders;
  • The parent has strong ties to another country that does not comply with the Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or other U.S. government efforts; or
  • The parent’s immigration status has changed or is pending.

It is important to know that if you are the parent hiding your child from the other parent in fear of violence, the law can grant you immunity from facing charges, however, you can always file for a protective order against the other parent to avoid being charged parental kidnapping.  You can contact a family law attorney to review your custody case to see what can be done to protect your and the child’s own safety.

Because kidnapping in itself is considered a criminal offense, parental kidnapping case, especially one where a parent has no rights over the child, is subject to facing charges under the Texas penal code.  At times, law enforcement may also have to get involved if the child appears to be in danger or the noncustodial parent and custodian cannot reach an amicable resolution.

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State and Federal Efforts

The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) 28 U.S.C. §1738A was enacted in 1980 in an effort to enforce state child custody determinations made out of state.  States have the authority to enforce child custody determinations even if the child is in another state.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multi-nation treaty signed into effect in 1983.  The U.S., along with 100 other countries provide efforts between one another to rapidly recover a child that has been internationally abducted by a parent from another country.  Tex. Fam. Code §153.503 incites the following preventable measures if it the child presents a high risk for international child abduction:

(1) appoint a person other than the parent of the child who presents a risk of abducting the child as the sole managing conservator of the child;

(2)  require supervised visitation of the parent by a visitation center or independent organization until the court finds under Section 153.501 that supervised visitation is no longer necessary;

(3)  enjoin the parent or any person acting on the parent’s behalf from:

(A) disrupting or removing the child from the school or child-care facility in which the child is enrolled;

The court can take additional measures to traveling outside the United States such as a limitation on issuing a passport for the child without a court order or communication with the necessary authorities (foreign embassy or consulate) to prevent travel.  Because it can get difficult to maintain jurisdiction over custody outside of the United States, it is best to prevent a parent kidnapping a child when still on U.S. territory.

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Parental Kidnapping Suit

As stated by Tex. Fam. Code §42.006, in a suit filed for the recovery of a child from abduction, the parent responsible for the abduction may be liable for damages.

(a)Damages may include:

(1)  the actual costs and expenses incurred, including attorney’s fees, in:

(A)  locating a child who is the subject of the order;

(B)  recovering possession of the child if the petitioner is entitled to possession; and

(C)  enforcing the order and prosecuting the suit; and

(2)  mental suffering and anguish incurred by the plaintiff because of a violation of the order.

(b)  A person liable for damages who acted with malice or with an intent to cause harm to the plaintiff may be liable for exemplary damages. 

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Additional Resources

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) | International Parental Kidnapping– The FBI page is a resource page for parents dealing with parental kidnapping investigations.  If you want to know more about how the FBI deals with parental kidnappings, you should read on.

U.S. Department of Justice | The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)– The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is an act that was established to protect the decision of different states’ decisions regarding child custody determinations.  To learn more about this regulation, you can click on the page to learn how it works in specific situations.

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Parental Kidnapping Lawyer in Cameron County, Texas

Parental kidnapping is serious and should be acted upon immediately.  Parental kidnapping cases can turn into international child abduction quickly, and it can get hard to obtain authorized jurisdiction internationally in order to safely retrieve your child in a timely manner.  If there is reason to believe the other parent may abduct your child out of spite or in order to avoid further case proceedings, the attorneys at The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. can file a suit on your behalf.

No time should be wasted when your child’s safety is in question.  The attorneys at The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. recognize that certain requirements need to be met in order for the law to recognize the event as parental abduction, however we can help you meet the steps, including soliciting for temporary custody on your behalf.

Call the Brownsville-based office of The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. at 956-504-2211 to receive a free confidential consultation or fill out a free case review form at the bottom of the page.  The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. works with clients in the counties of Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy County.