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Legal Information: General

Parental Kidnapping

Laws current as of April 27, 2023

How can I keep the other parent from taking my children out of the country?

You may want to immediately contact a lawyer who can help you figure out what you can do to try to prevent an abduction. For a list of legal resources, please see our Finding a Lawyer page.

If you can convince a judge that your concerns that the other parent is going to take the children to another country are “reasonable” based on the facts, you may be able to get the court to intervene. If you are seeking custody of your children, you can ask the judge to include a provision that the non-custodial parent is not allowed to travel with your child out of the country.

If the judge specifically includes language that the child cannot be removed from the U.S., you can enroll in the federal government’s Prevent Abduction program, which would create a “travel alert” to prevent the child from boarding a flight.

If you think that the other parent may try to flee with your child out of the country, you could ask the court to hold your child’s passport, and even possibly the other parent’s passport, so the child cannot leave the country. If your child does not have a passport yet, you may be able to register for the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program from the U.S. State Department, which provides the following service:

“Parents may register their U.S. citizen children under the age of 18 in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP), one of the Department of State’s most important tools for preventing international parental child abduction. If a passport application is submitted for a child who is registered in CPIAP, the Department alerts the parent or parents. This program provides parents advance warning of possible plans for international travel with the child.”

1 See the U.S. State Department website