Child Custody: Be proactive to prevent parental child abduction

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Child Custody: Be proactive to prevent parental child abduction

Thousands of children are abducted in Ontario and elsewhere every year. Many of these incidents involve parents abducting children of whom they do not have child custody. Some people will go to great lengths to take their children away from the custodial parents. One case involved a father who abducted his two toddlers — ages 2 and 3 — from the house of their grandmother while the mother was seeking a restraining order in the court. He stole a boat, loaded the kids, and sailed away, but fortunately, the Coast Guard took him into custody and brought the kids back to safety.

Parents can be proactive in taking measures to prevent such abductions. They can ask the court to add anti-abduction measures to the child custody orders. To ensure a child is not left alone with a parent who might try abduction, only supervised visitation can be included in the court order. As additional protection for the children, the custodial parent can file a copy of the court order with the child’s daycare or school and with law enforcement in the other parent’s state, if applicable.

The court can include travel restrictions to the order. That may prevent the ex from taking the children out of the region, province or even the country if he or she does not have the permission of the custodial parent. Parents who believe their children could be taken out of the country can inform the authorities to restrict the children’s passports. The court order can include the terms of The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. If such an abduction takes place, the first step will be to contact the Canadian Central Authorities — with the guidance of legal counsel.

Custodial parents in Ontario may protect their children from parental abductions by discussing their concerns with an experienced family law lawyer. A skilled lawyer can start by providing assistance with obtaining a restraining order. The father mentioned above who was arrested by the coast guard was charged with kidnapping, parental abduction and child endangerment. However, if protection orders were included in the original child custody order, this abduction might have been avoided.

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