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¡No Se Deje!
All of the states and the Federal government have laws that make it a serious crime for parents to kidnap their own children. Kidnapping is “The taking, retention or concealment of a child by a parent or other family member, or their agent, in violation of the custody rights, including the visitation rights, of another parent or family member.”
Parental kidnapping is a serious problem in this country. National records indicate that more than 250,000 children are kidnapped by parents each year.
There must be a child custody order to establish a parent’s legal rights in order to find the other parent guilty of parental kidnapping. Until a judge has granted one parent legal custody or made a visitation order, both parents have the authority to make important decisions regarding their children. Researchers and child care experts agree that children that are kidnapped by a parent suffer extreme emotional damage and are often subjected to verbal and physical abuse which causes long-term or permanent damage.
Since 1968 all of the states are required to recognize and enforce the child custody and visitation orders of other states. This was done so that parents would not be able to violate custody orders in one state by simply moving to another state. The custody orders of courts in the child’s home state are given priority if a kidnapping parent later seeks a more favorable custody order in a different state.
If a parent believes that the other parent will remove their child from the state or country, an emergency custody order should be requested immediately. An emergency order will immediately impose a legal prohibition from removing the child until a judge can make a decision regarding a formal custody and visitation order. This order will also enable the protected parent to have the courts of the other states enforce it, if necessary. And, a custody order should be requested immediately even after the child has been taken by the other parent to obtain the benefit of Federal laws against parental kidnapping.
The law protects women who take their kids to avoid or stop domestic violence to them or the children. These women should immediately request a custody order in the county or state they move to. This will protect them from kidnapping charges the other parent may make. In domestic violence cases, the courts will keep the new address of the victim confidential to avoid contact or harm from the abuser. And, undocumented immigrant victims may qualify for a U-Visa which would grant them permission to work and obtain permanent resident status.
The Hague Child Abduction Convention is an international treaty which requires all of the countries that signed it to return wrongfully removed children to their home countries. Mexico and the United States have both signed this important treaty. The treaty also allows for the extradition of the kidnapping parent to the country where the kidnapping occurred. Federal law provides a stiff fine and up to 3 years in prison for kidnapping parents. In California, parent kidnappers can be sentenced for up to 4 years in prison and fined up to $10,000 or both. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®
Jess J. Araujo, Esq.