Preventing Parental Abductions

Source: NP`s and PA`s


The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has issued strategies to use when dealing with noncustodial parents who fit the specific profiles: 

  • Profile 1: Previous threat or abduction – Obtain a court order that specifies which parent has custody, defines arrangements for the child’s contact with the noncustodial parent, designates which court has jurisdiction and requires written consent of the custodial parent or the court before the noncustodial parent can take the child out of the area. If visitation is unsupervised, the plan should include dates, times, places of exchange and other pertinent information. The courts should also specify consequences for failure to observe the custody provisions.
  • The child’s passport can be marked with the requirement that she not travel without authorization. School and day care officials, as well as medical personnel, should be presented with a copy of the custody agreement and can be told not to release any information on the child to the noncustodial parent.
    Supervised visitation is a stringent way of preventing abductions and is typically used to prevent recidivism in serious cases.  It is usually difficult to convince a judge to curtail a parent’s visitation unless there is substantial proof that the parent has committed a crime.
  • Profile 2: The parent who suspects abuse – Ensure that a careful and thorough investigation takes place. Accusing parents tend to calm down when they feel investigators are taking their concerns seriously. During the investigation, authorities must ensure that there is no ongoing abuse and must protect the accused parent, who may be innocent, from further allegations.
    Precautions include supervised visitation or even suspended visitation if the child demonstrates emotional or behavioral disturbances to the parent’s visits. Counseling is beneficial for both parents and the child, and a legal representative may be appointed for the child in the event of further legal action.
  • Profile 3: The paranoid delusional parent – Courts need to have procedures in place to protect children from severely delusional parents. If the noncustodial parent is psychotic, visitation may be supervised in a high-security facility and the parent assisted with maintaining the child’s safety at other times. However, the psychotic parent’s visitation may be suspended if he or she repeatedly violates the visitation order, highly distresses the child with his visits, or uses his time with the child to malign the custodial parent, obtain information on the custodial parent’s whereabouts or transmit threats of harm or abduction.
    If the custodial parent is psychotic, extreme care must be taken during litigation and evaluation to prevent abduction or violence. The family court may need to obtain emergency psychiatric screening and use ex parte hearings (without notice to the psychotic parent) to effect temporary placement of the child with the other parent or third party while investigators undertake a more comprehensive evaluation.
  • Profile 4: The sociopathic parent – When a parent is diagnosed as having a sociopathic personality, counseling and therapeutic mediation are inappropriate and potentially dangerous. These parents lack the capacity to develop a working relationship with a counselor and may even hide behind professional confidentiality to manipulate and control the other parties to achieve their own ends.
    If the sociopathic parent blatantly violates visitation orders, supervised or suspended visitation is appropriate. Courts also need to respond quickly and decisively with fines or jail time to any overt disregard of the explicitly custody and access orders. Counseling may then be appropriate once control mechanisms are in place.
  • Profile 5: The parent who is a citizen of another country – The range of actions suggested for Profile 1 are appropriate, especially those regarding passport and travel. Problems occur when the child has dual citizenship, since foreign embassies are not under obligation to honor restrictions when the request is made by the U.S. citizen parent. The court may require the foreign national parent to request and obtain these assurances of passport control from his or her embassy before allowing unsupervised visitation.
    The foreign national parent can also post bond that would be released to the other parent in the event of abduction. During times of acute risk, authorities can monitor the airline schedules so that an abducting parent and child can be intercepted at the airport before leaving the country.
    Additional strategies on international abductions may be found at
  • Profile 6: The parent who feels alienated from the legal system – Alienated parents, particularly mothers, have the best prognosis for effective interventions to prevent abductions. These strategies include access to affordable counseling and legal services; family advocates to bridge cultural, religious and economic gaps; and inclusion of important members of their informal social network into brief intervention services.

NPs should also instruct parents to prepare for the unthinkable (see sidebar). Too many parents lack the vital information needed to find their children in those crucial first hours following abduction whether parental or stranger. Parents should also know to contact their local law enforcement agency immediately in the event of an abduction. An AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert will be initiated (

Mary Muscari is a master’s-prepared pediatric nurse practitioner who is also a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist and forensic specialist. She is a professor of nursing and director of forensic health at the Universityof Scranton in Scranton, Pa., and is a well-known expert and author on the subject of violence among teenagers. She has a doctorate degree in nursing.

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One thought on “Preventing Parental Abductions

  1. Pingback: Parental Child Abduction Turkey – Turkish child abduction laws | Parental Kidnapping and Abduction. We Can Help Recover your Child

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