How to Stop Parental Kidnapping Before it Happens

In 2007 Governor Ritter signed a bill into law entitled the “Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act”. The purpose of the Act is to deter domestic and international child abductions by parents or persons acting on behalf of parents, before during or following divorce.

The UCAPA gives Colorado Courts broad powers to impose abduction prevention measures at any time.

This Act fills a void by identifying circumstances indicating a risk of abduction and providing measures to prevent the abduction of children. The Act can also apply in pre-decree and intrastate cases.

If you have the right to seek a child custody determination then you have the right to ask a Colorado Court for remedies under the UCAPA. The Court can also, on it’s own motion during a child custody proceeding, order abduction prevention measures if it feels there is evidence to show a credible risk of abduction.

The following factors are looked at by the Court to determine if there is a credible risk of abduction:

  1. Previous abduction or attempted abduction
  2. Threat of abduction
  3. Has recently engaged in activities that indicate a planned abduction including:
    1. Abandoning employment
    2. Selling a primary residence
    3. Terminating a lease
    4. Closing bank or other financial accounts, liquidating assets, hiding or destroying financial documents
    5. Applying for a passport or Visa for self or family members
    6. Seeking the child’s birth certificate or school or medical records
    7. Has engaged in domestic violence, abuse, stalking or child abuse or neglect
    8. Not following child custody determination
    9. Lacks strong familial, financial, emotional, or cultural ties to the state or the US.
    10. Has strong familial, financial ,emotional, or cultural ties to another state or country.
    11. Is likely to take the child to a country that is not part of the Hague Convention and does not provide for the extradition of an abducting parent or for the return of an abducted child, lacks legal mechanisms for immediately and effectively enforcing a return order or poses a risk to the child emotional or physical health.
    12. . Is likely to take the child to a country that has practices that would enable the person taking the child to prevent the other parent from contacting the child, restricts the child’s ability to leave the country after the child reaches the age of majority due to gender or religion, restricts the parent’s ability to travel freely or leave the country due to gender, nationality or religion, is a sponsor of terrorism, does not have a US diplomatic presence or is engaged in a military action or war to which the child could be exposed.
    13. Has had US citizenship denied.
    14. Is undergoing a change in immigration status that would effect the parent’s ability to stay in the US.
    15. Has used multiple names in an attempt to mislead or defraud.
    16. Has forged or presented misleading or false evidence on government forms.
    17. Any other conduct the Court feels is relevant to the risk of abduction.

At the hearing the Court will consider any evidence that the respondent believed in good faith that the respondent’s conduct was necessary to avoid imminent harm to the child or the respondent.

If the Court finds that there is a credible risk of abduction, it has broad powers to order restrictions to prevent abduction. These include:

  • Travel restriction outside of a given geographical area.
  • Requiring a travel itinerary including a list of addresses and telephone numbers where the child can be reached at specified times.
  • Copies of all travel documents.
  • A prohibition from removing the child from the state or geographical area, or from school or approaching the child at any location other than a site designated for supervised visitation or parenting time.
  • A requirement that the Court Order be registered in the state the child will be traveling to before the child can travel with the parent to that state.
  • Surrendering the child’s passport and/or a prohibition from obtaining a new or replacement passport for the child.
  • Requirement that Court Order detailing passport and travel restrictions for the child be filed with the US State Department Office of Children’s Issues and the relevant foreign consulate or embassy.
  • A limitation on visitation or parenting time or requirements that time be supervised until the Court finds it is no longer necessary.
  • A requirement that a bond be posted or other security provided to serve as a financial deterrent to abduction.

To prevent imminent abduction of a child the Court may:

  • Issue a warrant to take physical custody of the child.
  • Direct the use of law enforcement to take any action reasonably necessary to locate the child, obtain return of the child, or enforce a custody determination under the law of this state or
  • Grant any other relief allowed under the law of this state other than this article.

As you can see, the Court can do what is necessary to prevent abduction. The court can impose any number of remedies as necessary. Once you get over the credible risk of abduction standard the Court can do what is necessary to protect the child from the abduction.

This Act is a very powerful tool. Consult your attorney as soon as you suspect a possible abduction. Do not wait. A study commissioned by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention estimated that 262,100 US children were abducted in 1999; 78% of them were abducted by a parent or family member and approximately 1000 abductions were international.

The longer you wait to speak to a Colorado family law attorney the higher your chances are of inadvertently giving up your legal rights.