As The Holidays approach, many children are preparing to visit their non-custodial parents. For most of these children, it will be an exciting chance to enjoy special time creating happy memories with a parent before returning safely home to their familiar surroundings.
However, there is another phenomenon that can occur at this time of year. Every year, more than 200,000 children are abducted by a non-custodial parent or family member. The holiday season is one time of year when these abductions occur.
A few simple steps can help protect your child:
1) Obtain a certified copy of your custody document to have with you.
If your child is traveling to another state, register a certified copy of your custody document with the state your child will be visiting. This will give your court order the force of law in that state, and help ensure prompt and efficient action on the part of law enforcement.
According to a report by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (p.4), 60% of law enforcement agencies surveyed cited the existence of a custody order as influencing whether or not to take a report on a parental child abduction. 51.9% cited the existence of a custody order as being a factor in determining investigative priority, and it was the most cited factor (70.6%) in whether or not prosecutors opened a case.
You will need a certified copy of your custody document, which you can get from the clerk of the court that issued the order.
You will need to contact (through mail or online) the clerk of court for the jurisdiction where your child will be staying, and obtain a form requesting registration of your order. Many of these forms are available in PDF form online, and can be printed out, filled out, and mailed.
Once you have filled out the form, you should make sure to read the instructions for filing carefully, and make sure that you have everything required. It is not uncommon to need the completed form, a certified copy of the order, two copies of the form and the order, and a check for a filing fee.
Mail or deliver them to the clerk of court in the jurisdiction where your child will be staying.
2) Ensure that your child has a round-trip ticket for the trip, and that they know the plan. If they are old enough, provide them with a copy of their itinerary.
It is much more difficult for a parent or family member to keep a child that knows they are expected at home, and the day that they are supposed to be returned.
3) Make sure to tell your child that they can expect to hear from you if there are any changes in the plan, and that they have a right to call you and discuss any changes.
If your child has a cell phone, make sure that they pack the phone, that your number is entered in the menu, and that they remember to pack their charger. Also let them know that they have the right to use any phone available to call you if they feel the need. Also, teach your child how to make a collect call to you.