- Profile 3: The parent who is paranoid delusional. These parents demonstrate paranoid, irrational and sometimes psychotic beliefs and behaviors toward the other parent. They may claim that the other parent exercises mind control over the child or that the other parent has harmed the child. This profile is rare, but these parents are often dangerous, especially if they have a history of domestic violence, substance abuse or hospitalization for mental illness. These parents do not see the child as a separate person. Instead they perceive the child as fused with themselves as a victim or as part of the hated parent, which may cause them to abandon or kill the child. Marital dissolution and custody investigation can result in the psychotic parent committing murder-suicide.
- Profile 4: The parent who is severely sociopathic. These parents have contempt for authority, including the legal system, and often have flagrantly violated it. They are self-serving, manipulative and exploitive. They hold exaggerated beliefs about their own superiority and entitlement and are highly gratified by their ability to exert power and control over others. They typically have a history of domestic violence, and, like paranoid abductors, they do not see the child as having separate rights and needs. Thus they use their children as instruments of revenge and punishment or as trophies in their fight with their ex-partner. This profile is also rare.
- Profile 5: The parent who is a citizen of another country. These parents have strong ties with their country of origin and have long been recognized as potential abductors. The risk is very high at the time of separation when these parents feel cast adrift in a foreign land and desire to reconnect with their ethnic or religious roots. Parents at greatest risk are those who idealize their own family, homeland and culture and deprecate American culture. If their country has not ratified the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the stakes are extremely high, as the recovery of the child can be difficult, if not impossible. (The Hague Convention establishes administrative and judicial mechanisms to bring about prompt return of the abducted child. Additional information on the Hague Convention can be found at http://travel.state.gov/hague_childabduction.html.)
- Profile 6: The parent who feels alienated from the legal system and who has support in another community. Several subgroups feel alienated and rely on their own networks of kin, who may live in another geographical community, to resolve family problems:
- Parents who are indigent and poorly educated about custody laws and who cannot afford legal representation or counseling that would help them solve their dispute appropriately.
- Parents who have prior negative experience with criminal or civil courts and who thus do not expect the family courts to be responsive to their plight. Many of these parents have a police record.
- Parents who belong to certain ethnic, religious or cultural groups that hold childrearing beliefs contrary to prevailing custody laws.
- Mothers who have a transient, unmarried relationship with the child's father and who often view the child as their exclusive property.
- Parents who are victims of domestic violence, especially when the courts have failed to take the steps necessary to protect them and hold the abuser accountable.
Custodial Parent Teaching
Parents generally lack information or access to legal information, and most are unprepared for possible abductions. NPs should provide parental abduction prevention teaching to those parents at risk.
Most custodial parents benefit from these general preventive measures:
- Keep a friendly, or at least civil, relationship with your ex-partner. This helps reduce the anger and frustration that often leads to abduction.
- Communicate openly with your children, reinforcing that you love them and always want them, no matter what anyone else says. Let the children know they have the right to reach you, and make sure children know how to make a long distance phone call to you.
- Have certified copies of the custody agreement readily available, and make sure the agreement gives the police the right to recover your children.
- Speak to your attorney immediately so that he can take the legal steps necessary to thwart abduction.
- Keep a discrete list of your ex-partner's information: social security number, driver's license number, car registration number and checking and savings account numbers. Use caution when obtaining this information so as not to set off an abduction.
- Do not ignore abduction threats. Get advice from the police, a counselor and your attorney.
- Notify the child's school or day care that the child is not to be released to anyone, including the ex-spouse, without your permission.
- If you were never married to your ex-partner, you should obtain a custody agreement anyway because state laws vary as to whether the mother automatically gets custody in these cases.
- Find out whether your state has an agreement with the Office of Child Support Enforcement of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, allowing state officials to use the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS). The FPLS is a national network that can help find an abducting parent in child custody, visitation or criminal custodial interference cases. They are most effective when the abductor is receiving federal benefits or when the child has been missing for 6 months or more.