Child custody disputes can be extremely intense and emotional. Here’s what to know about parental kidnapping by a parent in Washington.

Parental kidnapping is when a parent or relative wrongfully takes a child away from their parent(s) without permission. Washington State treats parental kidnapping as a class C felony, and perpetrators can face severe consequences. If a parent has abducted your child, many resources exist for you to get your child back safely.

What is Parental Kidnapping/Child Abduction by a Parent in Washington State?

Parental kidnapping occurs when a parent or relative takes a child away from their parent(s) without consent, forcefully or fraudulently. Washington State classifies parental kidnapping as a class C felony, punishable with up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Taking Action Against Parental Kidnapping in Washington

If your co-parent commits parental kidnapping in Washington, you can take several actions to ensure your child’s safe return:

  • You can call your local Sheriff’s Department. You can find a complete list of local Sheriff’s Departments in Washington here.
  • You can file a custodial interference report at your local police department with someone who handles child abductions.
  • If your child is missing, you can ask your local police department to enter your child’s information into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
  • If the police station will not enter the information in NCIC, you can go to a local missing children’s clearinghouse (federal law requires these clearinghouses to make entries about missing children). You can also call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.
  • If you are worried your co-parent will take your child out of the United States, you should immediately call the U.S. Department of State, Children’s Issues at 202-501-4444 or at 1-888-407-4747.
  • You should report the parental kidnapping to Child Protective Services (CPS), so they can let you know if they receive any other referrals regarding the co-parent that abducted your child.
  • If the abducting parent has threatened or used physical violence against you or your child, you can file for a domestic violence protection order (DVPO) which would grant temporary, full custody and keep the abducting parent away from you and your child.
  • If you are worried your child is in immediate danger, you can file a petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus.
  • If the court approved the Writ, law enforcement would have the ability to find your child and arrest anyone who got in the way of them doing so. Washington courts rarely administer Writs and only do so in the most extreme cases.

FAQs About Parental Kidnapping in Washington | Child Abduction by a Parent

Can the police help me get my child back from my co-parent if we do not have a custody order?

The police will most likely not be able to do anything until you have a custody order, but you should still call them immediately following the abduction and report it.

Which type of lawyer should I hire if I want to prosecute the parental kidnapper?

If you want to prosecute the parental kidnapper, you should hire a child visitation lawyer or family lawyer to help you with your case.

How can I prevent parental kidnapping?

The U.S. Department of State has several resources and tips to prevent parental kidnapping from occurring, which you can access here.