How Common is Parental Abduction during a Divorce?

reunitedParental abduction during or after a divorce is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a family.

Emotions run high as a marriage is ending, and often the fear and resentment that couples feel drive them to do things they might not otherwise do. This is especially true if a custody battle develops and one parent loses perspective of the situation.

When a parent fears the future and takes drastic measures, failing to consider what is best for the child and how to create the healthiest long-term relationship, it can turn the lives of the entire family upside down.

How Often Do Parents Abduct Children?

Unfortunately, parental abduction happens more often than most people realize.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), approximately 800,000 children are reported missing each year. At least 200,000 of these reports are linked to a parent or family abduction. The majority of abducted children were taken by somebody they knew.

Less than a quarter of all child abduction cases are perpetrated by strangers.

The risks for a child being abducted in the midst of a custody battle is all too real and something parents must consider if they are divorcing, especially if the divorce is contentious and even more so if there are debates over parenting time. People who suspect any aspect of their divorce could cause problems might want to consider hiring denver divorce lawyers, or a lawyer more local to them, to help the process and try to prevent anything as serious as a child being abducted.

The good news is more than 90% of children abducted by a parent are returned to their legal guardians.

To read more about the statistics related to child abductions, view this article from

What Can You Do to Reduce Your Child’s Risk?

In a previous blog post titled, “Protect against International Child Abduction in NY and NJ with these tips,” we provided tips to protect against international child abduction. Though you can’t completely eliminate the risk of an abduction of your child, there are things you can do to reduce the odds of it happening.

Understanding why your ex, or even current spouse, might consider drastic measures can help prevent an abduction from actually occurring. The risk for parental abduction is heightened when your child’s other parent:

  • Believes he or she could lose all rights to custody or visitation
  • Has accused you of being abusive or neglectful
  • Has expressed a desire to punish you
  • Is desperate to interact with you or tends to use poor judgment in an effort to gain attention
  • Desperately wants to return to their place of origin if foreign born

If you’re in a situation that involves any of the above, your spouse or ex has ever made a threat previously to abscond with your child, or your intuition is telling you there might be a problem, it’s best to take it seriously.

There are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of international child abduction, including:

  • Do your best to facilitate time between your child and your child’s other parent, even if you have concerns. Even under the most trying circumstances, supervised visitation is likely possible.
  • Put your own feelings aside and try to be friendly. Think of the benefits a cordial relationship with your ex could provide for your child, even if it’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to do.
  • Request that your child’s other parent participate in counseling, which can help prevent a situation from worsening. Counseling can be helpful for co-parenting or individually.
  • Read our blog post, “Protect against International Child Abduction in NY and NJ with these tips,” for more information

Keep in mind every situation is different and these measures won’t work for every family. Your attorney can help you determine if setting aside your emotions will help or hinder your situation.

It’s important to be proactive about the situation. Report any concerns or threats of abduction to the police and to your attorney immediately. Keep detailed records of what is said and save any emails, texts, or voicemails that indicate your ex could be considering drastic measures.

Additionally, there are legal and financial measures you can take to deter the risk of parental abduction. Be proactive. Your attorney can help you enact these measures and ensure all is being done to reduce the chances your child’s other parent will consider abduction.

If you have concerns about parental abduction or your child’s other parent has made threats that you believe could develop into a parental kidnapping, we can help. You should always take the situation seriously and know that doing what is best for your child is never overreacting. Contact Gourvitz & Gourvitz, LLC at (973) 467-3200 or (212) 586-1700 to discuss your situation.


Gourvitz & Gourvitz LLC.

New Jersey
505 Morris Avenue
Suite 102
Springfield, New Jersey 07081
Telephone: (973) 467-3200
Fax: (973) 467-4091
New York
142 West 57th St
11th Floor
New York, New York 10019
Telephone: (212) 586-1700

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