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International Parental Kidnapping

Federal courts only have jurisdiction over certain criminal matters, namely those that involve interstate commerce. For this reason, international parental kidnapping falls under the purview of federal prosecutors and those who are accused of this offense can be tried in federal court. This can have important repercussions for defendants, as federal crimes come with serious penalties and tend to be aggressively investigated and prosecuted, making it especially important for those who have been accused of international kidnapping to consult with a skilled federal crime attorney who can help defend their interests.

What is International Parental Child Abduction?

International parental child abduction, or parental kidnapping refers to the removal or retention of a child outside of his or her country of habitual residence in breach of the other parent’s custody rights. Allegations of international kidnapping are investigated by the U.S. Department of State, as well as a number of other federal agencies like the FBI.

Prohibited Conduct

Under federal law, anyone who removes a child from the country, attempts to do so, or retains a child outside of the U.S. with the intent to deprive someone else of their parental rights can be sentenced to up to three years in prison. The parental rights referred to are defined as the right to physical custody of a child regardless of whether custody is joint or sole or arises by:

  • Operation of law;
  • Legally binding agreement between the parties; or
  • A court order.

Fortunately, there are affirmative defenses that a person who has been accused of parental kidnapping can raise, including that:

  • He or she acted within the provisions of a valid court order granting him or her legal custody or visitation rights; or
  • He or she was fleeing a pattern or incidence of domestic violence.

Although not all countries consider international parental kidnapping to be a crime, many foreign countries will prosecute their own citizens for acts committed abroad.


Those who are convicted of parental kidnapping face severe penalties, including:

  • Incarceration;
  • Probation, which could also include restricted access to the child;
  • An order to return the child;
  • A fine to cover the cost of locating and receiving the child; and
  • Restitution.

It’s important to note that sentencing conditions only last as long as the criminal sentence, so the other parent will need to seek an official modification of the custody agreement in order to permanently restrict access to the child.

Contact an Experienced Federal Crime Attorney

To learn more about international parental kidnapping charges, please contact experienced Miami federal crime lawyer Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. at (305) 670-9919 today.

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