51 JUL 2022 | WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM ow is child abduction legally defined? And what is the difference between abduction and kidnapping? Child abduction and kidnapping are often used interchangeably, though the term “child abduction” is usually associated with the 1980 Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Hague Abduction Convention”), which is a civil treaty between approximately 100 countries, including the United States. The term “kidnapping,” on the other hand, usually references criminal behaviour, such as defined by the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993 (“IPKCA”), which makes it a federal crime to take or a keep a child outside of the United States in violation of another person’s parental rights. How common are parental abductions? The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that approximately 200,000 children are abducted each year by a parent of other family member, though that includes both domestic and international child abductions, which are governed by different sets of laws. The United States Department of State – tasked with overseeing international child abduction cases – stated that during 2021, they handled 679 active abduction cases involving 904 children. Of course, not all cases of abduction, be they international or domestic, are reported to the authorities. How often is a parent unaware that they have committed abduction, and are there are any justifications for a parent who commits child abduction? Oftentimes, parents may be unaware that they have engaged in child abduction for a variety of reasons. They may believe they had the right to relocate to another state or country without the other parent’s permission. They may be victims of domestic violence simply fleeing a dangerous situation. Or they may be living in a foreign country simply desiring to return to their own country to be closer to their own families. As is often said, ignorance of the law is not a defence, but there are valid reasons or defences that can be raised when confronted with allegations of child abduction. As mentioned previously, escaping domestic violence can sometimes legally justify a child abduction, as can a consideration of the interests of the child, including how long they may have resided in the other country and whether the child has a strong objection to returning to the original country. What are the major risk factors for parental abduction? There are several risk factors, many of which have been codified under the NavigatingObstacles in International Child Abduction Disputes involving parental abduction of a child are often fraught with difficulties, though the addition of an international element can exacerbate these yet further. Unravelling these issues typically requires the knowledge of a family law attorney with experience in handling cases pursuant Hague Abduction Convention. Richard Min, a leading authority on such abduction cases, delves further into this subject below. EXPERT INSIGHT H Litigating child abduction cases will vary heavily depending on whether the abduction is domestic versus international.