Parental kidnapping is child abuse – Understanding Michigan divorce law

According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children there were 456,676 entries for missing children in 2016 about ½ of all of the entries involve parental kidnapping.  The NCMEC reports 203,000 children are victims of parental kidnapping. The law is clear, parental kidnapping is a serious crime. In this article, we will examine parental kidnapping law, parental kidnapping warning signs and steps you can take to prevent parental kidnapping.


Michigan parental kidnapping law.

  • Parental kidnapping is a serious crime under Michigan law.  The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act is found in:  Michigan Compiled Laws 750.350a, prohibits a parent from taking a child for more than 24 hours with the intent to conceal the child from the other parent.  This crime is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year and one day or a fine of not more than $2,000.00 or both.
  • 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.

Federal parental kidnapping law. 

In addition to Michigan law, there are multiple Federal laws that apply in instances of parental kidnapping, many of which are outlined in the United States Department of Justice Citizen’s Guide to Federal Law on Parental Kidnapping. The Federal laws include:

  • 42 U.S Code § 5772 defines a “missing child” as “any individual less than 18 years of age whose whereabouts are unknown to such individual’s legal custodian.
  • 18 U.S. Code § 1204 – International parental kidnapping provides that whoever removes a child from the United States, or attempts to do so, or retains a child (who has been in the United States) outside the United States with intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both.
  • 18 U.S. Code § 1073Fugitive felon act authorities the federal government to assist with the apprehension of state law fugitives, including those charged with parental kidnapping, through the issuance of a federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP) warrant, when the fugitive crosses state lines.
  • 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction dictates that a wrongfully removed child must be returned to the country of habitual residence. Habitual residence is recognized by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Taglieri v. Taglieri as: “where a child lives exclusively in one country, that country is presumed to be the child’s habitual residence”.  The purpose of the Hague convention is “to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention and to establish procedures to ensure their prompt return to the State of their habitual residence.” In order to do so, the Convention established a system whereby “a court in the abducted-to nation has jurisdiction to decide the merits of an abduction claim, but not the merits of the underlying custody dispute.”

Parental kidnapping warning signs.

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.  Here is a list of common red flags:

  • 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.

How you can prevent parental kidnapping.

One way to prevent International parental kidnapping is to prevent a parent or child from obtaining a passport.  Without a passport, it is extremely 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 allows the Department of State Office of Children’s Issues to contact a parent to verify if the parental consent requirements for a minor passport issuance has been met.  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.

Obtain a Court Order

If you have serious concerns about Parental kidnapping voice your concerns. We are willing to listen and help. For example, you can request an Court Order requiring a parent to surrender his/her passport to prevent him/her from leaving the country with a minor child, obtain supervised parenting time or other appropriate relief tailored to your situation.

About Findling Law

Findling Law, PLC – 414 W. 5th St. Royal Oak, Michigan 48067

Phone:+1 (248) 399-3300
After hours emergency?+1 (707) 968-7347


I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades.  The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles.  We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.

By:  Daniel Findling

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