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Legal Information: Maryland


November 27, 2023

If I fear the other parent may abduct my child, what can I do?

A judge on his or her own can include abduction prevention measures in a child custody proceeding if s/he believes that there is a risk of abduction of your child. Additionally, you can file a petition in court that specifically asks for abduction prevention measures.1 In the petition, you must state evidence of any of the following “risk factors for abduction” that apply,2 including whether the accused parent:

  1. has previously abducted, attempted to abduct, or threatened to abduct your child;
  2. has recently done actions that may indicate a planned abduction, including:
    • abandoning employment;
    • selling a primary residence;
    • terminating a lease;
    • closing a bank or other financial account, liquidating assets, hiding or destroying financial documents, or conducting any unusual financial activities;
    • applying for a passport, visa, or other travel documents for him/herself, a family member, or your child;
    • attempting to get your child’s birth certificate or school or medical records;
  3. has engaged in domestic violence, stalking, child abuse, or child neglect;
  4. has refused to follow a child custody order;
  5. lacks strong familial, financial, emotional, or cultural ties to Maryland or the United States;
  6. has strong familial, financial, emotional, or cultural ties to another state or country;
  7. is likely to take the child to a country that:
    • is not a party to the Hague Convention and does not provide for the extradition of an abducting parent or for the return of an abducted child; or
    • is a party to the Hague Convention but:
      • the Hague Convention is not in force between the United States and that country;
      • the country is noncompliant according to the most recent compliance report issued by the United States Department of State; or
      • the country lacks legal mechanisms for immediately and effectively enforcing a return order under the Hague Convention;
    • poses a risk that the child’s physical or emotional health or safety would be endangered in the other country because of specific circumstances relating to the child or because of human rights violations committed against children in that country;
    • has laws or practices that would:
      • allow the respondent to prevent you from contacting the child;
      • restrict you from freely traveling to or exiting from the other country because of your gender, nationality, marital status, or religion; or
      • restrict the child’s ability legally to leave the other country after your child becomes an adult because of the child’s gender, nationality, or religion;
    • is included by the United States Department of State on a current list of state sponsors of terrorism;
    • does not have an official United States diplomatic presence in the country; or
    • is engaged in active military action or war, including a civil war, to which the child may be exposed;
  8. is undergoing a change in immigration or citizenship status that would negatively affect the other parent’s ability to remain in the United States legally;
  9. has had an application for United States citizenship denied;
  10. has forged or presented misleading or false evidence on government forms or supporting documents to obtain or attempt to obtain a passport, a visa, travel documents, a Social Security card, a driver’s license, or any other government-issued identification card, or has made a misrepresentation to the United States government;
  11. has used multiple names to attempt to mislead or defraud; or
  12. has engaged in any other conduct the judge considers relevant to the risk of abduction.3

1 Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9.7-104(a), (b)
2 Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9.7-106(a)(2)
3 Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9.7-107(a)

If the judge agrees that there is a risk my child will be abducted, what will the judge do?

After holding a hearing in which the judge will consider evidence of the abduction risk factors, the judge can decide to issue an abduction prevention order.1 An abduction prevention order can include one or more of the following:

  1. travel restrictions that require that the other parent to give you the following documents:
    • a travel itinerary of the child;
    • a list of physical addresses and telephone numbers at which the child can be reached at specific times; and
    • copies of all travel documents;
  2. a restriction that the other parent cannot do any of the following directly or through another person:
    • remove the child from the State, the United States, or another geographic area without permission of the court or your written consent;
    • remove or keep the child in violation of the custody order;
    • remove the child from school, daycare, or a similar facility; or
    • approach the child at any location other than a site designated for supervised visitation;
  3. a requirement that a parent register the abduction prevention order in another state before the child is allowed to travel to that state;
  4. with regard to the child’s passport:
    • a requirement that you place your child’s name in the United States Department of State’s Child Passport Issuance Alert Program;
    • a requirement that the other parent surrender to the court or to your attorney any United States or foreign passport issued in the child’s name, including a passport issued in the name of both the parent and the child; and
    • a prohibition against the other parent from applying on behalf of the child for a new or replacement passport or visa;
  5. before exercising custody or visitation, a requirement that the other parent:
    • give an authenticated copy of the order detailing passport and travel restrictions for the child to the United States Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues and the relevant foreign consulate or embassy, and provide proof that this was done to the court;
    • provide an acknowledgment to the court from the relevant foreign consulate or embassy that no passport application has been made, or passport issued, on behalf of the child;
    • give you proof of registration with the United States Embassy or other United States diplomatic presence in the other country and with the Central Authority for the Hague Convention, if the Convention is in effect between the United States and the other country; and
    • provide to you and the court a written waiver under the federal Privacy Act with respect to any document, application, or other information pertaining to the child that allows the information to be given (disclosed); 
  6. if you request it, a requirement that the other parent get an order from the other country that has identical terms to the child custody order that was issued in the United States;2
  7. a limit on visitation or a requirement that visitation is supervised and paid for by the other parent;
  8. a requirement to post a bond or provide other security in an amount sufficient to serve as a financial deterrent to abduction; then, if there is an abduction, that money would be used to pay for the reasonable expenses to get your child back and your attorney’s fees; and
  9. a requirement that the other parent get educated on the potentially harmful effects to the child from an abduction.3

If the judge believes an abduction is about to happen (is “imminent”), the judge can:

  • issue a warrant to take physical custody of the child;
  • direct law enforcement to take any action reasonably necessary to locate and get the child or enforce the custody order; or
  • grant any other relief allowed by law.4

1 Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9.7-108(b)(1)
2 Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9.7-108(c)
3 Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9.7-108(d)
4 Md. Code, Fam. Law §§ 9.7-108(e); 9.7-109(a)