How to prevent parental kidnapping in Michigan

How to prevent parental kidnapping in Michigan.

It is not uncommon for a parent to kidnap their own child.  Maybe they lost custody or are angry and want to hurt the other parent.  Whatever the case, parental kidnapping is a federal crime and a crime in Michigan.  In many cases, parental kidnapping can be prevented.  


Be aware of  parental kidnapping “red flags”

Here are some red flags that may indicate a parents intention to kidnap a child.

  • A parent with no family, support system or other strong ties to Michigan or the United States;
  • A parent who has made prior threats to move with a child leave should be taken seriously;
  • A parent with limited financial reasons to stay in Michigan or the United States may be a cause for concern;
  • Cashing in retirement accounts, bank accounts and leaving employment; and
  • Planning activities such as quitting a job or cashing in retirement and bank accounts.

Avoid obtaining/possessiong a passport for the child

One way to prevent International child abduction is to prevent a child from acquiring a passport or allowing a parent access to the child’s passport.  Without a passport, it is difficult to travel out of the United States. 

In order to apply for a minor’s passport a parent must provide:

  1. Evidence of U.S. Citizenship
  2. Evidence of parental relationship
  3. Photo identification
  4. Parental consent
  5. Passport Photo
  6. Passport fees

If you are worried about parental kidnapping, it is probably a good idea to withhold your consent for your child to obtain a passport.  If the child already has a passport, it may be a good idea to request from a court that it be surrendered.

The Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program is another important tool for preventing international child abduction.  This program places the government on alert if a passport application is made for the minor child.

Amber Alert

The Michigan AMBER alert program arose from the murder of a 9 year old child named Amber Hagerman.  Amber was riding her bicycle when a neighbor heard a scream and called the police.  The AMBER alert program works like a severe weather report.  Local TV, radio and other media outlets broadcast news of a missing child as a public service.  If you suspect a parent may have abducted your child do not hesitate and call the police.

Parental kidnapping laws in Michigan and the United States

  • Parental kidnapping to another state

If a parent kidnaps a child who is governed by a Michigan Order and moves from Michigan to another state, the move is likely a violation of both Michigan law and Federal law.  Every Michigan custody order addresses moving a child out of State or more than 100 miles.  Violating a court’s order may subject the offending parent to fines, sanctions and jail.

In addition, the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (“PKPA”) is a federal law that provides the issuance of a felony warrant in parental kidnapping cases.  The PKPA also establishes national standards for child custody jurisdiction and gives preference to the home state.  Therefore, if a parent kidnaps a child who lived in Michigan and moves to Texas, the PKPA would require that Texas follow Michigan law.  In addition, a Michigan court could order the child returned to Michigan.  Federal preemption and the Full Faith and Credit clause of the United States Constitution would require Texas to follow Michigan law and likely return the child.

  • Parental kidnapping to another country

Parental kidnapping cases from Michigan to another country is also a Federal crime.  The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (“IPKCA”) provides that whoever removes a child from the United States, or attempts to do so, or retains a child with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights shall be fined or imprisoned.  In simple terms, doing so is also a felony.

  • The Hague Convention

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Hague Convention”) is a treaty between the Untied States and partner countries and provides for the immediate return of a wrongfully removed child.

Only Hague treaty partners are required under international law to return a victim of parental kidnapping.  You may be surprised to learn that Morocco is a treaty partner but Russia is not.  Additional remedies in parental kidnapping cases can be found in 22 United States Code chapter 26 entitled: INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION REMEDIES.

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By:  Daniel Findling

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