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Legal Information: California

Parental Kidnapping

Laws current as of January 11, 2024

If I think that the other parent may kidnap my child, can the court help me?

If you are involved in a custody case, it may be helpful to provide as much evidence as possible to the judge to support your concern that the other parent is likely to kidnap (abduct) your child. To determine whether or not there is a risk of kidnapping, the judge will consider whether or not the other parent:

  • has taken or hidden the child in violation of your custody or visitation rights before, or has threatened to do so;
  • has no strong ties to California, such as friends, family, a job, or a home;
  • has strong familial, emotional, or cultural ties to another state or country, including foreign citizenship;
  • has no financial reason to stay in this state, including whether the party is unemployed, is able to work anywhere, or is financially independent;
  • has planned activities that would make taking your child from the state easier, such as applying for a passport, attempting to get birth certificates or other records, buying plane tickets, closing his/her bank account, selling his/her home, etc.;
  • has a history of a lack of parental cooperation or child abuse or has committed domestic violence; and
  • has a criminal record.1

If a judge believes that there is a risk of kidnapping, here are examples of some of the possible measures that the judge can take to try to prevent the other parent from taking your child:

  • ordering supervised visitation;
  • requiring the other parent to keep money with the court (post a bond) that would cover the cost of locating or getting back your child if the other parent kidnaps him/her;
  • restricting the right of the custodial parent to move with the child, unless s/he gives notice to, and gets the written agreement of, the non-custodial parent, or gets the approval of the court before moving with the child;
  • restricting the right of either parent to remove the child from the county, the state, or the country;
  • requiring the surrender of passports and other travel documents;
  • prohibiting a parent from applying for a new or replacement passport for the child; and
  • ensuring that the other parent will return from foreign visits by requiring him/her to provide the court or you with any of the following:
    • the travel itinerary of the child;
    • copies of round-trip airline tickets;
    • a list of addresses and telephone numbers where the child can be reached at all times; or
    • an “open airline ticket” with flexible flight dates for you in case the child is not returned.2

1 Cal.Fam.Code § 3048(b)(1)
2 Cal.Fam.Code § 3048(b)(2)