Family law disputes involving custodial rights can get tense between two parents, or divorcing or divorced couples. Though it is in the best interest of all parties involved to work together to resolve any child custody issues through the proper legal channel, there are times when rational people may make irrational decisions, such as taking a minor child out of the country during a child custody dispute with the primary purpose of infringing upon or depriving the other parent of their custodial and parental rights.

It is important for our Michigan residents and parents to understand that when one parent takes a child out of the country without the explicit permission of the other parent primarily to interfere with the other parents rights, the parent who takes the child out of the U.S. is in essence violating federal law and may face International Parental Kidnapping charges.

Annually, the Department of Justice gets many reports of parental international kidnapping cases. Most stem from on-going child custody disputes. Presently, federal law explicitly states that a parent cannot remove a child from the U.S. or keep a child out of the U.S. in another country with the intention of preventing the other parent from exercising their parental and custodial rights. If a parent charged with parental international kidnapping is found guilty, they may face up to three years in prison.

It is important for Michigan residents to understand that though the DOJ can investigate and prosecute parents who kidnap their child and take them abroad, the DOJ does not have any power to effect the custodial arrangement decision or return the child back to the other parent in U.S. The other parent has to work with the U.S. Department of State to negotiate and coordinate the return of the child. In fact, the child custody and parental visitation rights are the jurisdiction of the local and state authorities and governed by the family court system.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, “International Parental Kidnapping,” Accessed Sept. 28, 2015