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Know the Laws: Washington

UPDATED October 1, 2012

State Parental Kidnapping Information

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This page includes information that is specific to this state, about parental kidnapping, also called custodial interference. There is also a page for general information that you may find helpful. Custody and kidnapping are particularly complicated and it is important to try to find an experienced lawyer to help you with your case.

back to topIf my spouse/ex takes the kids out of state without my permission, can I charge him with kidnapping?

Usually not. However, If the other parent purposefully attempts to deny you your custody or parenting time under a court order, that parent may be guilty of a custodial interference and you can file a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus asking the court to order law enforcement to return your child. Courts generally prefer that parents not represent themselves in Writ cases, so this is a situation where you should really try to hire an attorney. If that is not possible, you may able to find legal assistance. See the WA Finding a Lawyer page.* 

* R.C.W. § 9A.40.060

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back to topHow can I keep the other parent from taking my children out of the country?

The US Department of State has a program called the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program. Under this program, a parent or legal guardian may submit a letter requesting that the Office of Children's Issues in the Dept. of State notify them if someone requests a passport for their child. You will also have to submit a birth certificate or court order of guardianship to show that you are the parent or legal guardian. You can call the Office of Children's Issues at 202-736-9133.

If your child has dual citizenship, then s/he may be able to travel out of the country on the passport of the other country. The US Dept. of State cannot regulate passports from a different country, so you may want to contact that country's embassy or consulate to ask if they have a similar program. You will find contact information for embassies and consulates here: www.travel.state.gov under Foreign Entry Requirements.

You may ask a court to order, as part of a parenting plan, that the other parent not be allowed to take the child out of the country. You may send this order to the State Department to have that child’s passport blocked.

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back to topCan I get temporary parenting rights if I have an order for protection against the other parent?

Maybe. If you get an order for protection due to domestic violence, the order may include temporary residential provisions (which determine with whom the child will live) and/or temporary visitation rights for children. Be sure to tell the judge that you want the child to reside with you during your protective order hearing so that the judge can take your request into consideration. The residential provisions that determine where the child will live expire with that order. The judge may extend a temporary order if s/he feels it is necessary. If you want the child to reside with you long term you will still need to file a court action that includes a Parenting Plan.

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back to topCan I get temporary emergency custody?

You can file for temporary emergency care of your child if you feel that s/he is in danger. If you want to know more about this, please contact your local legal aid provider, a lawyer, or one of the resource centers listed on our WA Finding a Lawyer page under the Where to Find Help tab on the top of this page.

If your child qualifies for an order for protection, you can request temporary care of the child as part of your order. If you need immediate protection, and the judge finds that an emergency exists, s/he may immediately issue a temporary order which can include residential provisions for the child. This order will last until a hearing is held, usually within 14 days. 

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