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How a child abduction by a family member is investigated

A missing child is defined specifically by a law passed in 1982, the Missing Children's Act. That law says that any person who is under 18 years old is missing when his or her whereabouts are not known to the child's legal custodian. However, the law also states that the circumstances of the child's disappearance must be indicative of the child being removed from the legal custodian's care without his or her consent, or the case must indicate that the child is being sexually exploited or abused.

There are three options under the law that may be used when a child is abducted by a parent and whisked away across state lines or internationally. These are:

-- The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993: If a parent takes a child under the age of 16 out of the U.S. without the custodial parent's permission, then an arrest warrant can be issued.

-- Unlawful Flight to Avoid Persecution -- Parental Kidnapping: A state may request the help of the FBI after filing charges for parental kidnapping. The FBI can issue an arrest warrant for the parent who took the child out of the country or across state lines.

-- The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction: There is a civil process that will help return a child taken to another country without the permission of the child's custodial parent. The country where the child is located must have signed the Hague Convention.

As you can see, there is help when a child is taken by a parent without the permission of the child's primary custodian. If you find yourself in this situation, the attorney who helped you with your divorce or child custody agreement may be able to provide additional information.

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Family Child Abductions," accessed Aug. 20, 2015

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