Every year, more than 200,000 children are abducted by a family member. Usually, the abductor is the non-custodial parent. However, grandparents and other relatives can also be involved.

Fortunately, knowledge and a little bit of planning can help keep your child safe. Parents who abduct their own children seldom act out of the blue. There are measures you can take that will reduce the chances that your child will be abducted by their other parent.

First, understand why parental child abductions happen.

Some abductions are done out of sheer spite. One parent wants the other one to suffer or worry. Sometimes, the abducting parent wants to use the child as a pawn to force a reconciliation. Often, however, the abduction happens for one major reason: The abducting parent is afraid that they will lose their connection to the child, along with all custody and visitation rights.

Second, recognize what you can do to prevent parental child abductions.

The number one thing you have to do when you have a child custody issue with your ex is to respect their right to visitation and the relationship they have with your child. Don’t make it more difficult than necessary for that parent to have visitation. Most parents genuinely love their children. Most abductions happen because the parent is angry or scared of losing that child forever. It’s a powerful motivator.

That being said, take the following additional steps:

  • Try to stay respectful of his or her position. In addition, treat his or her family members with respect, as well.
  • Keep a certified copy of your custody order at home, in your car and at work — wherever you might need it.
  • Document all threats made by the other parent. Report them immediately to your attorney.
  • Ask the court to include abduction prevention measures in the custody orders.
  • Notify your child’s school or daycare and any babysitters of your custody orders and make sure they understand the other parent’s limits.

If you’re worried about your ex’s potential to abduct your child (particularly if there’s any reason to fear that they may flee overseas with the child), talk to an attorney today about the measures you can take.