If you are a birth parent, then your child is your own flesh and blood. As such, you will typically have parental rights over her or him. However, if you take your child somewhere without first getting the consent of the child’s other parent or guardian, does the act constitute kidnapping? Well, in the age of divorce and joint custody over children, the sharing of custody has introduced a new interpretation of the term “kidnap.”
By law, any child that is under the age of 18 whose whereabouts is unknown to his or her legal custodian has been kidnapped. In the case of joint custody, both parents are legal custodians. This means that if one parent moves a child over state or foreign borders without the knowledge of the other parent that child has been abducted. This can happen because of an honest mistake, such as a spur of the moment Disney World trip. However, an abduction can also be due to more complicated or even dangerous motives.
Regardless, if a child is abducted over state lines, the FBI does get involved. However, if the child is taken over international borders, then the reach of the FBI is significantly curtailed. Depending upon the case, the FBI may request local law enforcement assistance to apprehend and return the child to the United States. The FBI may make an official request through the State Department for assistance. However, this process could take weeks or months to get official approval.
If you believe that you may have run afoul of these abduction laws, then you may want to speak to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. In most of these cases, the abduction was by mistake because one parent forgot to inform the other. Generally speaking, if the abduction was an honest mistake, the FBI should decline to pursue charges. However, this decision is entirely dependent upon the investigating agent and the assigned U.S. Attorney. Regardless, these are serious charges, which could implicate your parental rights and even your freedom.