Every year in America, approximately 250,000 children are the victims of parental abduction. While “abduction” sounds frighteningly close to “kidnapping” and makes most of us recoil in horror, many of the parents involved are sincerely trying to do what they believe is best.
A mother who fears that she or her children will be harmed by domestic violence may take the young ones and flee to friends or family in another state. A father who believes he was cheated out of custody may attempt to forcibly make things right.
In spite of the myriad reasons that it occurs, the Administrative Office of the Courts in Washington is working to make more people aware of the harmful effects of parental abduction.
Being spirited away from everything familiar — house, pets, grandparents, friends, school and more — can be a very traumatic experience for children. They are likely to feel afraid, angry, bitter, confused or conflicted.
Even if the child is later returned to familiar surroundings, he or she may suffer from a deeply rooted mistrust that can have serious effects for years to come.
Because the abducting parent is usually anxious to avoid being discovered, he or she tends to enforce a rule of secrecy. This, too, can have negative effects on a child’s development. He or she may:
- Obtain only a limited education.
- Not receive adequate health care.
- Have inadequate housing.
- Be taught to lie.
- Live in fear of law enforcement.
- Be reluctant to leave his or her house.
Parents who are thinking about taking their children away without the court’s permission should consider consulting an experienced child custody lawyer in Washington. With compassionate counsel, parents may be able to develop a workable parenting plan that is truly in the children’s best interests.