Assessing Flight Risk and Preventing Abduction


While most couples are able to navigate the bumps in the road of co-parenting and ultimately act in the best interest of their children, some people in highly contentious situations may resort to extreme measures.


Sometimes that extreme measure is the abduction and hiding away of the child.


While California and Federal Law provide rather severe remedies and consequences to the abducting parent or family member, it is our desire that warning signs be heeded and that appropriate orders should be sought to prevent the abduction.


In my professional career, I have come across a number of abduction cases. Some lasted only hours. Others, months. And a few – many years. The impact on the children is oftentimes long-term and devastating.

Known Risk Factors For Child Abduction


Here are some of the known risk factors that should be considered when evaluating the risk of abduction:

  • Young age of the child(ren). Most abductions involve children age 6 or younger.
  • Concerns about child neglect or exposure to violence represented in the custody dispute.
  • Allegations of abuse against the child(ren) that have gone unsubstantiated.
  • Parental disrespect or indifference toward the law and authority.
  • Parents with mental health issues.
  • Child(ren) were born to unmarried parents.
  • Parents dismiss the value of the other parent to the child(ren).
  • Prior threats of abduction.
  • The abducting parent is a foreign national with ties to their homeland.
  • The abducting parent feels disenfranchised and has support in another locale.
  • The abducting parent has limited financial or emotional ties to the area.

Many of these factors have been codified in California to give guidance to parents and judges reviewing a request for abduction prevention orders. Family Code, Section 3048, sets forth specific instructions for the court to consider when it becomes aware of facts which may indicate a risk of child abduction.


Orders For Preventive Measures


If the court, in evaluating all of the factors, finds a need for preventive measures, it shall consider making orders which may include: limiting visitation to supervised visits; ordering a parent to post a bond in an amount to deter abduction; restricting how far a parent can travel with the child; restricting relocation; ordering surrender of passports and travel documents; requiring a parent to notify a foreign consulate or embassy of passport restrictions; and requiring the parent to register the California custody order in another state as a prerequisite to travel.


The Judicial Counsel has developed forms to allow parents and courts to be sure that it considers all of the factors in evaluating a request.


If the risk factors are present in your child custody or visitation dispute, you should consult with an experienced Family Law attorney to assist you in evaluating the risk and crafting an appropriate plan to prevent an abduction.

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