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Parental Child Abduction:Prevention

There are many factors to consider when it comes to preventing your child from being abducted by their other parent/guardian.

Relationship with other parent/guardian

When one parent/guardian abducts their child from the other parent/guardian it is often in the context of a divorce or separation, and may stem from a deteriorating or volatile relationship between the parents/guardians. If the other parent/guardian is willing, it may be beneficial to engage in counselling or mediation to improve your parental relationship.

If you are struggling with ways to manage a controlling or hostile ex-partner, seek professional help and/or advice.

Formal custody and access arrangements

A custody order or written agreement that clearly outlines decision-making powers, living arrangements, and periods of access to your child can be very helpful. Depending on your situation (e.g., threats of abduction, history of abduction, domestic violence, abuse), consider speaking with your lawyer about available options, which may include:

  • A non-removal clause stating that a parent/guardian may not remove a child from the jurisdiction (province or country) without the consent of the other parent/guardian. The clause could specify that consent always be provided in writing.
  • Clearly specifying periods of access (dates and times) as this provides clarity for both parties should a dispute arise.
  • Supervised access. This means the child would not be alone with the specified parent/guardian as the access is being supervised by a third party. This could take place with an approved supervisor or at an access centre (if such a centre is available in your location).

Remember, though, that taking such measures can sometimes inflame an already volatile situation, so you need to weigh the potential risks and benefits carefully.

If you have a custody order or agreement, ensure that it is kept up to date and easily accessible.

Preventative steps

  • Ensure you have current information about your child’s other parent/guardian (e.g., phone number, email address, social media handles, address, employment, family, friends).
  • Ensure those caring for your child, such as their school, babysitter, daycare, etc. are aware of the custody or access arrangement. Make sure they understand the schedule of who is allowed to pick up your child and what to do if they are presented with a situation that has not been approved. Providing schools and daycares with a copy of any custody order may assist them in responding if a situation arises.
  • Teach your child (when possible) their home phone number (including area code) and address.
  • Teach your child to dial 911 if they need urgent help.
  • Teach your child the difference between:
    • Keep Secrets: secrets that don’t hurt anyone, will eventually come out, and have a happy ending — like a surprise birthday party.
    • Speak Secrets: secrets that may be harmful or that make the child feel uncomfortable, scared, confused, or sad. These secrets have no ending and the child is told to never tell anyone.
    • Visit the Canadian Centre for Child Protection website for additional information on child personal safety.

The information provided above is intended for information purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. Readers should assess all information in light of their own circumstances, the age and maturity level of the child they wish to protect, and any other relevant factors.