International parental child abduction is a crime in every state and the District of Columbia under specified circumstances, and is also a federal crime under the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act. Read more about laws and regulations.
Tips to Prevent an Abduction from Occurring
Take action if you think the other parent has taken your child.
Get a court order or custody decree: A clear court order may be the most important preventative measure. For example, court orders may include provisions addressing passports, travel restrictions, or custody.
Consult an attorney: We strongly encourage parents to consult with an attorney regarding their particular circumstances, including the possibility of obtaining an order that prohibits the child from traveling outside of the United States.
Be aware of warning signs: Be on the alert for sudden changes in the other parent’s life, such as quitting a job or selling a home, that may be made in preparation to relocate. For more information, click on our Helpful Links page.
Notify local law enforcement and give them copies of any court orders, including custody, protection, and restraining orders.
Consider contacting a country’s foreign embassy or consulate if your child is or may be a dual national of that country. If one parent is a citizen of another country, for example, your child may have claims to a foreign nationality and therefore be able to obtain a passport from that country. See our FAQs for more information on dual nationality.
Be aware the United States does not have exit controls or require two-parent consent for a minor to travel across international borders. Law enforcement may be unable to prevent an abduction without a valid court order clearly prohibiting the child’s travel outside of the United States.
Office of Children's Issues at the U.S. Department of State
Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:15 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information.