If a Child is Abducted
What to do if Your Child has Been Abducted by a Family Member
- File a missing person's report with local police. The police will forward a copy of their report to the District Attorney's Office, Child Abduction Unit (CAU).
- Contact the Child Abduction Unit in your county. The number for Merced County is (209) 385-7381.
- Obtain a court order for custody of your child, if you do not already have legal custody. If there is no custody order in effect, both parents are considered to have equal legal custody. If no permanent order is in place, a temporary custody order may be issued by the court. Obtaining the custody degree is the obligation of either of the parents.
- If your child is taken out of the State of California, the CAU will use the resources available to recover the child, including interstate compacts and federal agencies. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) requires each state to recognize valid custody orders issued in another state.
- If your child is taken out of the United States, the CAU will use the resources available to locate and recover the child, including federal treaties and the services of the State Department in Washington, D.C. It is essential that a custody order be in place, because without one, some countries will not recognize that an abduction has occurred. The United States is a signator to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. In cases involving another country that is a signator to the Hague Convention, the Office of Children's Issues at the State Department will assist parents in filing the necessary application with foreign authorities, and works with the Child Abduction Unit, U.S. embassies and consulates to help facilitate locating and returning the child. If the child has been taken to a country that is not a signator to the Hague Convention, the Office of Children's Issues will provide the Child Abduction Unit with information concerning the laws and customs of that country, and with referrals to attorneys experienced in parental abduction law and the family law of that country.
- If you are the victim of domestic violence, you can make a police report and request that the police department issue an Emergency Protection Order. This will give you protection while you are obtaining a court order. You can also contact Valley Crisis Center for assistance in obtaining a Restraining Order and/or temporary custody. Valley Crisis Center may also be able to provide a place to stay if you are afraid to return home, as well as an escort in court.
The following criminal charges may be filed when a child is abducted by a parent or a visitation order is violated:
Penal Code Section 278 (Child Stealing)
This is used when a child is taken by someone with no right to custody. It is punishable by up to one year in jail, or two years, three years, or four years in prison.
Penal Code Section 278.5 (Deprivation of Custody)
This is used when one parent deprives the other parent of their custodial right to the child. It is punishable by up to one year in jail, or 16 months, two years, or three years in prison.
Penal Code Section 207(a) (Kidnapping)
This is used when a person forcibly steals, takes, holds or detains any person in this state and carries them into another country, state or county or into another part of the same county. It is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five or eight years.
If the person kidnapped is under 14 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime, the kidnapping is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for five, eight or eleven years.
Penal Code Section 166(a)(4) (Contempt of Court)
This may be used when a visitation order is violated. It is punishable by up to six months in jail.