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Children Abducted by their Own Parent – Then Re-Abducted by the Other

Across the country, the tale begins as follows. A parent returns home from work or goes to the school to pick up the child or shows up for weekend visitation – but the child is missing – taken by the other parent. Some children are returned to the left behind parent; others vanish without a trace. Another scenario is that one parent goes on vacation with the child overseas and never comes back. Iowa family law attorneys are no strangers to this dilemma.

Child Abduction by Parent

Worldwide, 70 percent of children abducted by a parent are abducted by their mother. In North Africa and the Middle East regions, 92 percent of children abducted by a parent are abducted by their father.

Left Behind Parent’s Rights

Within the United States, child abductions by a parent are prohibited and are governed by the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act. Once the child is located, the child is returned to the left behind parent and the abducting parent loses substantial parental and visitation rights with the child. If the child is removed from the United States and is in a country that is a signatory to The Hague Convention, the child is returned to the left behind parent when located and the abducting parent loses parental rights.

If the overseas country is not a signatory to The Hague Convention, the left behind parent, often re-abducts the child and returns him or her to the United States. The left behind parent does anything and everything to be reunited with the abducted child. The children are traumatized and then suffer further trauma when they are abducted by the left behind parent.

The outcomes are negative for all of the parties. The parent who abducts the child places his or her own needs above the children. The child is traumatized, and possibly alienated from the other parent, and both of the parents are destroyed. It will take a lifetime for the parties to re-establish trust, if that is even possible.

Particularly, if the parents are cross-cultural, international law is limited with the remedies available to the left behind parent. Even if the country is not a Hague Convention signatory, they do not want parents resorting to self-help. It is dangerous for all the parties. In situations where the parents are cross-cultural or one has significant ties to another foreign country, prior to having children, the parties should discuss what will happen if the couple separate or divorce. If possible, include the agreement in a post-nuptial agreement. If a dispute arises anyway, the parties should consider a collaborative divorce or mediation to resolve custody and parenting time before one of them thinks a child abduction is the solution.


Whitaker, Hagenow & Gustoff, LLP, assists individuals with child custody and support, parenting time (visitation), changing of domicile, psychological treatment of children, collaborative divorce, and mediation proceedings in Iowa. If you are interested in pursuing a collaborative divorce in Iowa, contact us, to schedule your free telephone consultation.

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