Did you know that 260,000 children are abducted in the United States every year? Of these child abduction cases, only about 115 result in very serious consequences, as in injury or death.The number of children reported missing in the U.S. is about 800,000 every year, but this figure can be misleading, as it includes many trivial incidents such as overstaying with a parent.
There are 800,000 children reported missing every year, which is about two children every day. Of the children reported missing, 350,000 are family abductions, that is, they are taken away by family members in violation of custody agreements.
Family child abductions cases:
In 16% of family abductions, the child experiences severe mental harm.
8% of the children experience physical harm.
7% of the children are sexually abused.
Mothers take the child away 46% of the time.
Fathers take the child away 54% of the time.
Non-Family child abductions cases:
More than 65% of the children abducted by non-family members are girls.
75% of the abductors are male.
67% of them are below 29 years of age.
46% of the children are sexually abused.
31% of the children are physically abused.
32% of abductions take place in a street or a car and 25% take place in a park or a wooded area.
The top three places an abductor imprisons the child are – a car, the abductor’s home and/or the abductor’s building.
Most abductions are carried out within a quarter of a mile of the child’s home.
40% of children in stereotypical kidnappings are killed.
4% of children are never found.
79% kidnappings are carried out by strangers and 21% by acquaintances.
Nearly 75% of the parents in the U.S. fear their children might become victims of abduction.
NOW THAT YOU KNOW THE STATISTICS, WHAT CAN BE DONE IN A CUSTODY CASE TO PREVENT RISK OF CHILD ABDUCTION BY THE OTHER PARENT?
Many of the enumerated risk factors extrapolated from statistics, and thereafter cited by the legislature, have only tangential relevance to the propensity of a parent to abduct a child. Yet, those factors can trigger very severe and costly consequences. One of the risk factors is loss of a job; thus, a parent who loses his or her job may be prevented from traveling with his/her children to visit family in another state without costly and time consuming preventive measures being in place first. These will certainly have a chilling effect on a parent’s right to travel.
What about Burgess move-away cases? When one parent is moving, can the Courts impose the same restrictions on a moving parent? We know that they can in international move-aways (See, e.g., In re Marriage of Lasich (2002) 99 Cal.App.4th 702, 121 Cal.Rptr.2d 356); they have not yet been imposed on a parent moving to another state, but under the Synclair-Cannon Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2002 enacted Fam. Code §3048, modified effective
July 14, 2003, as urgency legislation, certainly could be.
It is recommended that the parent requesting preventive measures permitted by this statute attempt to get findings that are more specific than simply that the other party showed a “lack of parental cooperation.”
Here is a summary of the Synclair-Cannon Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2002 enacted Fam. Code §3048, which mandates trial courts to make specific findings in every custody and visitation order and, where certain objective factors exist, to make extensive orders designed to combat possible child abduction.
REQUIRED FINDINGS IN EVERY CUSTODY/VISITATION ORDER:
(1) The basis for the court’s exercise of jurisdiction.
(2) The manner in which notice and opportunity to be heard were given.
(3) A clear description of the custody and visitation rights of each party.
(4) A provision stating that a violation of the order may subject the party in
violation to civil or criminal penalties, or both.
(5) Identification of the country of habitual residence of the child or children.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER IN ASSESSING RISK OF ABDUCTION:
The Court is required to consider, sua sponte or at the request of either party, the risk of abduction of the child, obstacles to location, recovery, and return if the child is abducted, and potential harm to the child if he or she is abducted. To determine whether there is a risk of abduction, the court shall consider the following factors:
(A) Whether a party has previously taken, enticed away, kept, withheld, or concealed a child in violation of the right of custody or of visitation of a person.
(B) Whether a party has previously threatened to take, entice away, keep, withhold, or conceal a child in violation of the right of custody or of visitation of a person.
(C) Whether a party lacks strong ties to this state.
(D) Whether a party has strong familial, emotional, or cultural ties to another state or country, including foreign citizenship. This factor shall be considered only if evidence exists in support of another factor specified in this section.
(E) Whether a party has no financial reason to stay in this state, including whether the party is unemployed, is able to work anywhere, or is financially independent.
(F) Whether a party has engaged in planning activities that would facilitate the removal of a child from the state, including quitting a job, selling his or her primary residence, terminating a lease, closing a bank account, liquidating other assets, hiding or destroying documents, applying for a passport, applying to obtain a birth certificate or school or medical records, or purchasing airplane or other travel tickets, with consideration given to whether a party is carrying out a safety plan to flee from domestic violence.
(G) Whether a party has a history of a lack of parental cooperation or child abuse, or there is substantiated evidence that a party has perpetrated domestic violence.
(H) Whether a party has a criminal record.
BELOW ARE MEASURES THE COURT IS REQUIRED TO CONSIDER WHEN IT BECOMES AWARE OF CERTAIN RISK FACTORS:
(A) Ordering supervised visitation.
(B) Requiring a parent to post a bond in an amount sufficient to serve as a financial deterrent to abduction, the proceeds of which may be used to offset the cost of recovery of the child in the event there is an abduction.
(C) Restricting the right of the custodial or noncustodial parent to remove the child from the county, the state, or the country.
(D) Restricting the right of the custodial parent to relocate with the child, unless the custodial parent provides advance notice to, and obtains the written agreement of, the noncustodial parent, or obtains the approval of the court, before relocating with the child.
(E) Requiring the surrender of passports and other travel documents.
(F) Prohibiting a parent from applying for a new or replacement passport for the child.
(G) Requiring a parent to notify a relevant foreign consulate or embassy of passport restrictions and to provide the court with proof of that notification.
(H) Requiring a party to register a California order in another state as a prerequisite to allowing a child to travel to that state for visits, or to obtain an order from another country containing terms identical to the custody and visitation order.
(I) Obtaining assurances that a party will return from foreign visits by requiring the traveling parent to provide the court or the other parent or guardian with any of the following:
(I) The travel itinerary of the child.
(ii) Copies of round trip airline tickets.
(iii) A list of addresses and telephone numbers where the child can be reached at all times.
(iv) An open airline ticket for the left-behind parent in case the child is not returned.
(J) Including provisions in the custody order to facilitate use of the UCCJEA and the Hague Convention.
(K) Authorizing the assistance of law enforcement.
If any of the above risk factors appear in your case, know the court provides remedies. But also keep in mind that “blowing the whistle” for sham or spurious reasons can have serious repercussions on the other parent’s right to travel, as well as the custody rights of “the whistle blower.”