There is no worse feeling than knowing that you are in a position where you have to worry about your children while they’re in the other parent’s care. Whether there have been threats of withholding custody or you’re wary of a long-distance trip overseas due to your ex-spouse’s dual nationality, you’re in a difficult position. You want to protect your children, but you also don’t want to be an alarmist.

It is important for you to know that others around you will understand if you have legitimate concerns about parental kidnapping. Parental kidnapping or abduction is when a child is kept from the other parent in violation of a custody order. When that kidnapping potentially involves multiple countries, it can be extremely scary for the parent involved.

What is considered to be parental kidnapping?

Every state is a little different, but in general, parental kidnapping occurs whenever a parent is withholding custody maliciously. For example, the parent may physically restrain the child from leaving the home and lock the doors when the other parent arrives for a scheduled pick-up, which would be a violation of the other parent’s rights.

More often, people think of kidnapping as when a parent takes a child and flees. This could lead to serious problems for parents, as they have no idea where their children are or how to reach them.

What should you do if you’re worried about parental kidnapping?

To start with, you need to have some kind of evidence that supports your concerns. For example, if your ex-spouse repeatedly returns your children to you late or tries to restrict them from seeing you, that’s a problem. If your children mention passports or an upcoming trip you haven’t been informed of, that could also be a sign of a parent making plans that are less than appropriate.

If you have evidence that concerns you, then reach out to an attorney immediately. If you believe your ex-spouse has already fled with your children and you cannot find them, call 911 and get police involved.

It is easier to find children who are still in the United States if international travel is a possibility, so letting the authorities know about the fact that they’re missing is important. If your children are in danger of being kidnapped, a judge can also take steps to restrict your ex-spouse’s actions and to protect your children.

The Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) allows the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues to contact the enrolling parent(s) or legal guardian(s) to verify whether the parental consent requirement for minor passport issuance has been met when a passport application has been submitted for an enrolled child.

Upon a child’s enrollment in the CPIAP, we may alert the enrolling parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of a pending passport application and past passport issuances for the child. Only U.S. citizens or children under the age of 18 who qualify for U.S. citizenship can be enrolled in the CPIAP.