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Parental Kidnapping

North Carolina General Statute § 14-39 defines kidnapping as the unlawful confining, restraining, or removing from one place to another, anyone 16 years of age or older without their consent and holding them for ransom, in furtherance of or fleeing a felony, causing serious bodily harm or terrorizing or holding that person in involuntary or sexual servitude. When a person is under the age of 16, it requires the parent’s or legal guardian’s consent before the minor can be restrained, confined, or removed from one place to another.

The statute requires that a parent or legal guardian give their permission before a child’s removal from the state or the country. Without the parent’s or legal guardian’s consent, removing a child from the state or the country means that parental kidnapping may have occurred. Factors to consider in parental kidnapping are whether a custody order is in place, whether the parents are still married, whether paternity is established, or whether concealment of the child occurred.

What options are available if you find that your child has been or could be removed from the state or the country? Fear that the other parent will remove the child from the state without your permission or consent may allow you to file for emergency custody or an emergency restraining order to prevent someone from removing the child from the state.  Another option available is to request that the court limit the other parent’s visitation or only allow supervised visitation.

Removing the child out of the country without the permission of the other parent can be much more complicated. You can seek a restraining order from international travel or request that the judge seize the child’s passport. Suppose no passport has been issued for the child, and you fear the other parent may try to obtain one without your consent. In that case, the U.S. State Department’s Children’s Passport Issuance Program issues an alert to parents of the minor child upon submission of an application. For information on registering for the alerts, visit the State Department website here. Additional frequently asked questions are available here.

If you believe your child is missing and you fear has been removed from the state or the country without your permission, immediately contact your local law enforcement agency. If an imminent threat exists that a child may be removed from the state or country, contact a local family law attorney to seek advice on preventing the removal of the child from the state or country.