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Legal Information: California

Parental Kidnapping

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 abduct (kidnap) the child. To determine whether or not there is a risk of abduction, the judge will consider these whether or not the other parent:

  • has taken / hidden the child in violation of your custody or visitation rights before or has threatened to do so;
  • has no strong ties to California (“ties” could include friends, family, a job, a home, etc.);
  • 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 child abduction, here are examples of some of the possible measures that the judge can take to try to prevent the abduction:

  • ordering supervised visitation;
  • requiring a parent to post a bond as a financial deterrent to abduction;
  • restricting the right of the parent that has custody of the child (custodial parent) to move with the child, unless the custodial parent gives notice to, and gets the written agreement of, the parent that does not have custody of the child (non-custodial parent), or gets the approval of the court before moving with the child;
  • restricting the right of the custodial or non-custodial 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
  • obtaining assurances that a party will return from foreign visits by requiring the traveling parent to provide the court or the other parent or guardian 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; and
    • an open airline ticket for the left-behind parent in case the child is not returned.2

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