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International parental kidnapping is a serious federal crime

The term "parental kidnapping" may seem counterintuitive to some Louisianans. After all, a parent has authority over his or her child, right? Interestingly, despite the fact that a person is a parent, he or she may still be charged with kidnapping their own child. This typically occurs when the child is the subject of a custody order arising out of a divorce proceeding. Sometimes this kidnapping occurs at the international level, which may lead to the accused facing federal charges for the crime of international parental kidnapping.

Under the United States Code, a parent who removes, or attempts to remove, a child out of the country, or keeps a child out of the country and away from another parent, with the intent to interfere with the other parent's rights to custody, may be guilty of a federal crime. International parental kidnapping may arise if a married couple living together in the United States with a child has a dispute and one parent moves with the couple's child to another country and does not intend to return.

The potential consequences for this form of child abduction are severe. A person convicted of international parental kidnapping may face a prison sentence of up to three years, plus fines. Often the child at issue is returned to the United States following negotiation with authorities in the country to which the child was taken.

A parent's intent is central to this crime. Whether a parent has the intent to deprive another parent of custodial rights is not always clear, and is often disputed. A person who has been charged with international parental kidnapping, or who is under investigation for such a crime, may wish to seek legal counsel.

Source: The United States Department of Justice, "Citizen's Guide to U.S. Federal Law on International Parental Kidnapping," accessed Jan. 8, 2016

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