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What Is Parental Child Abduction And How To Prevent It

Parental child abduction occurs when one parent wrongfully takes or retains a child. They often conceal where the child was taken from other family members or parents, depriving those other parties of visitation or custodial rights. In Colorado, parental child abduction is a crime that comes with harsh penalties. However, there are also steps that parents can take to prevent or deter parental child abduction from occurring in the first place. Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to help parents put some of these safeguards in place. Contact our team at (720) 593-6442 for more information.

Defining Parental Child Abduction Under Colorado Law

Parental child abduction occurs whenever a parent keeps a child longer than their court-ordered parental responsibilities or takes a child in violation of a court order relating to custody. There are two ways that parental child abduction can occur.

  • Violation of a court order. If there is a court order regarding custody in place, a parent that violates the court order by depriving the other parent of the right to their parental responsibilities may be guilty of parental child abduction. This may include refusing to allow a parent to visit their child in accordance with a visitation order in some situations.
  • Takes a child regardless of a court order. This kind of parental child abduction can occur even in the absence of a court order. If a parent does not have the legal authority to take a child, but takes the child anyway, then this can constitute parental child abduction whether the court has issued any specific order related to custody or not.


Parents must know and understand custody orders to avoid violating them. In addition, parents may also be able to take steps to deter parental child abduction from occurring in the first place.

Penalties for Parental Kidnapping in Colorado

Parents who retain a child longer than they should under a parenting plan or visitation agreement, or who outright take a child from their other parent, could face criminal charges for parental kidnapping.

Parents who are charged with parental kidnapping can raise an affirmative defense that they believed their child was in danger. If a child is 14 years of age or older, and the child willingly goes with a parent without enticement or threat, then that can be an affirmative defense to the charge as well.

How Can Parents or Guardians Prevent Parental Child Abduction?

Parents may be surprised at just how often parental child abduction occurs. Unfortunately, part of the reason it occurs is that parents do not fully understand or appreciate their custody rights, terms, and obligations as parents, especially when they are no longer in a relationship with the other parent. Below are just a few tips from Colorado Divorce Law Group to help parents prevent and avoid situations involving parental child abduction.

Obtain a Custody Determination

Even if the parents seem to be getting along and working through custody on their own, having an order from the court that outlines each parent’s rights and obligations can be very helpful. Having an order from the court can also strengthen an argument that the child should not have been taken—it is much stronger than any verbal agreement that parents may have had with one another.

Advise Caregivers of Court Orders

Parents who wrongfully take children will often do so when the child is at a third-party location, such as a school or daycare. Make caregivers aware of custody orders or agreements, so they know when a parent should or should not be picking up a child. A caregiver may not be able to prevent a child from going with a parent, but they can report an abduction much faster if they know that the situation is not what was expected.

Get a Court Order That Addresses Specific Abduction Concerns

If a parent has a real concern that the other parent will attempt to take a child, they can file a petition with the court under the Colorado Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act seeking an order to implement specific visitation limitations and restrictions. The same legislation also outlines a range of factors courts may consider as indicative of abduction risk; when filing the petition, concerned parents should specify the factors present in their situation.

In some cases, a parent might request that only supervised visitation occur or that the child have travel or passport restrictions. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) suggests surrendering the child’s passport to the court and placing the child’s name on a Passport Issuance Alert Program if out-of-the-country travel is a concern.

Know the Risk Factors That Could Signify an Increased Risk of Abduction

Some parents will show signs that a parental abduction might occur in the future. Keeping an eye out for these risks can help parents seek help from the court before a parental child abduction takes place.

  • Has previously abducted or has threatened to abduct a child
  • Has a criminal record
  • Has a history of marital instability or lack of cooperation with the other parent, including domestic violence and child abuse
  • Has strong ties (family or other relationships) in a different state or country
  • Has no job, can work anywhere, or does not need to work
  • Seems to be engaged in activities that signify a move, including selling their home, quitting a job, or closing accounts
  • Has applied for new or duplicate documents for the child, such as new passports, birth certificates, or school and medical records

NCMEC reports that 63% of all AMBER alerts in 2020 were for family abduction situations. Although parental child abduction may seem like something that happens to other people, it can happen to any family. Taking preventative action now can mean a world of difference to the health and safety of your child.

Get Help With Colorado Custody Issues

Taking steps today to put a parental responsibility order in place can help address parental child abduction before it becomes a real issue. Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to help with this process. Call (720) 593-6442 to learn more.