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Parental Child-Stealing

NCJ Number
M W Agopian
Date Published
157 pages
Ninety-one cases of parental child-stealing in Los Angeles, Calif., were analyzed to investigate the nature and patterns of parental child-stealing--the abduction of a child by a parent in violation of a custody order.
The cases had been reviewed for prosecution by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office between 1977 and 1978. The research studied three elements of parental child-stealing: (1) the prosecution of parental child-stealing offenses, including data on the filing of criminal charges, the reason for rejection of prosecution, case disposition, and sentencing; (2) the parties involved in the crime, including offender, custodial parent, and abducted child; and (3) the situational elements and modus operandi of the crime. Study findings indicate that most child-stealings are carefully planned and not motivated by vindictiveness. The parent is usually seeking to maintain a full-time relationship with the child or influence reestablishment of the ruptured marital relation. Most of the cases studied involve Caucasian parents and a male offender (although this percentage is affected by the fact that the custodial parent is usually the mother). Child thefts are well-distributed throughout the year, but occur frequently on weekends along with the offender's exercise of visitation rights. Most snatchings do not involve force and occur after some time has elapsed since separation. Most child-stealing cases reported to police are never fully prosecuted. Filing of charges is related to the law enforcement agency involved. While most offenders are never arrested, those who are arrested are likely to be put on probation. The study recommends that legislation be enacted to make parental child-stealing a Federal offense and to ban such activity in individual State statutes. States should increase joint custody awards, and countries should establish international treaties specifically addressing parental child-stealing and child custody awards. In addition, courts should require parents to post security bonds. A bibliography of about 150 citations, study data and a data collection form, and contents of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act are appended.


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