What Is Parental Child Abduction and What Do I Do if This Has Happened to Me in Alberta?

What Is Parental Child Abduction and What Do I Do if This Has Happened to Me in Alberta?

The most common form of child abduction in Canada is committed by a parent or guardian. Even when an abduction poses no physical danger to the child, the emotional and mental toll of the disruption deprives the child of the stability and security they deserve. Depending on circumstances, parental child abduction may be punishable with charges under the Criminal Code.

If you believe your child to be at risk of imminent danger, call the police immediately. You do not need to wait to report a child missing in Canada. To learn how our Edmonton family lawyers may be able to help you if you are facing a situation such as this, contact us today and schedule a consultation. 

What Is Parental Child Abduction?

Parental child abduction happens when one parent takes a child without the consent of the other parent, who holds legal decision-making responsibility (formerly custody). The abducting parent may attempt to take the child out of the province or out of the country. If the child is abducted domestically, in breach of a custody order, the abducting parent may be subject to charges under Canada’s Criminal Code. If the child is abducted internationally, there may be guidance available under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Prevention of Parental Child Abduction

In a divorce or separation, parents must usually agree on a parenting plan that involves who will hold decision-making responsibility as well as how parenting time will be allocated. It is important to have a clearly written agreement, and for both parties to understand their rights and responsibilities. If one or both parents are not willing or able to collaborate on the parenting plan, the assistance of Edmonton family lawyers may be crucial to making sure the children’s best interests are protected.

A parenting plan should include clear outlines of if/when each parent has access to the child, living arrangements, and decision-making responsibility regarding matters of the child’s healthcare, education, religious upbringing, and more. 

Parental abductions often happen within the context of separation or divorce, where the relationship between the parents is rapidly deteriorating and may be volatile. Where it is safe to do so, try to collaborate with your child’s other parent. If direct collaboration does not work, seeking the support of a licensed counsellor or mediator can be helpful in bridging communication.

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection provides some some additional preventative steps you may wish to take:

  • Keep up-to-date information about your child’s other parent, including contact information such as phone numbers and email addresses, where they live, where they work, and the contacts of family or friends.
  • Make sure everyone involved in your child’s care (eg. babysitters, daycare, school) understands the arrangements of your parenting plan, including who has legal access to your child at what time.
  • If possible, teach your child your phone number and address.
  • Teach your child to call 911 in an emergency.
  • Teach your child to understand the difference between harmless secrets (eg. a surprise birthday) and harmful secrets (ones that make the child feel uncomfortable or unsafe, and come with threats lest they tell anyone)

If you feel your child’s other parent may attempt to abduct your child out of the country, talk to our Edmonton family lawyers about including international travel conditions in your parenting plan.

Signs of Risk

There is no way to know with absolute certainty whether or not your child’s other parent will attempt an abduction. However, there are signs of risk that have been observed in many parental child abduction cases. These include:

  • Previous abduction, or abduction attempts.
  • The other parent making threats, direct or indirect, of abducting your child.
  • The other parent making threats, direct or indirect, of harming you, your child, or themselves.
  • A history of disagreement between yourself and your child’s other parent as to the parenting plan.
  • A court decision about which your child’s other parent is unhappy.
  • A history of controlling and/or violent behaviour.
  • A display of resentment, hostility, and/or violent behaviour towards you and your family.
  • The other parent engaging in harrassing, obsessive, and/or stalking behaviour, such as constant phone calls, or showing up unannounced at your child’s school.
  • You have reason to believe your child’s other parent may wish to return to another country or province.
  • Your child tells you their other parent has mentioned an upcoming move.
  • Your child’s other parent is making big life changes, such as selling property and/or quitting their job.
  • Your child’s other parent is cutting financial ties to their current place of living, and making arrangements for themselves and your child to travel.
  • And more.

If you have questions as to your legal rights, and would like to learn more about how the support of a professional may help, contact our Edmonton family lawyers today.

Immediate Steps if Your Child Has Been Abducted

If you believe your child has been abducted and may be in danger, contact the police immediately by calling 911. 

Tell them:

  • If your child’s other parent has made any threats about abduction
  • If the other parent has a history of mental illness
  • Whether you have reason to suspect they have been taken out of the province or country
  • Whether your child has any medical conditions that require regular attention. 

The police will likely ask you to describe your child’s appearance, and provide a custody order as well as the child’s identifying information (birth certificate, passport).

Call and/or text any numbers you have associated with your child and their other parent. Call the other parent’s friends and family. Record any and all information you receive. If you are not able to reach anyone, note when the lack of contact started.

Contact Our Edmonton Family Lawyers Today for a Consultation

Parental child abduction is a deeply traumatizing event. At Verhaeghe Law, our priority is to act in a time-efficient manner to uphold your rights and the rights of your child. Contact us today and schedule a consultation to learn how we might be able to help you.

** Please note, this article is intended as a general overview on the subject of family law, and is not intended to be legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with an Alberta family lawyer.

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