Child Abduction

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The Monterey County District Attorney's Office Child Abduction Unit provides the following services:

  • Locating and recovering abducted children in parental abduction cases.
  • Enforcing child custody and visitation orders.
  • Prosecuting crimes involving child abduction, and child concealment.*

*Prosecution of the abductor is considered on a case by a case basis. If the case is prosecuted, the left behind parent is considered the victim/witness. The District Attorney's Office will prosecute the abductor on behalf of the State of California. The District Attorney represents the People of the State of California and the Superior Court and is forbidden by law from representing either party in a child custody and/or visitation dispute.

The Monterey County District Attorney's Office Child Abduction Unit was formed in response to a State mandate established in 1977. The District Attorney’s Office duties in regard to Parental Child Abduction are outlined in California Family Code Sections 3130 – 3131.

Family Code Section 3130 provides that, in cases where there is an order to appear for purposes of adjudication of custody, the District Attorney shall take all actions necessary to locate the party and the child and to procure compliance with the order to appear with the child.

Family Code Section 3131 provides that, in cases where an order exists and the child is taken or detained by another person in violation of the order, the District Attorney shall take all actions necessary to locate and return the child and the person violating the order and assist in the enforcement of court orders through civil or criminal proceedings.

What To Do If Your Child Has Been Abducted By A Non-Custodial Parent

If you think that your child has been abducted by the non-custodial parent, immediately call your local police department and file a missing person's/ child abduction report. The police can then contact the Child Abduction Unit who will assist the police in investigating the abduction. Do not wait to make the report, time is of the essence. Be sure to have as much information as possible about the abductor and your child when making a report.

What if I don’t have a custody decree or visitation order?
Without a valid custody decree or visitation order, both parents have equal rights and access to their child. This lack of structure can mean confusion and undue stress for the child and the parents. Even when verbal agreements are made between the parents for custody and visitation, outside influences can change these agreements and a parent may find that enforcement of these basic parental rights, without an order, can become very difficult. No matter how well things are going with verbal agreements, it is always a good idea to obtain a court order that outlines specific parameters for custody and visitation. Provides legal advice in day-to-day operations for local police or other law enforcement agencies and provides educational and training programs for their personnel.

How do I obtain a custody decree or visitation order?
A parent may file for a custody decree in pro per (by self-representation) or with the help of a family law attorney. This paperwork can be complicated and obtaining legal advice is highly recommended. If a parent cannot afford a lawyer, they may gain assistance for a minimal fee from various local agencies such as Legal Aid of the Central Coast or at no charge from non-profit organizations such as the Vanished Children’s Alliance. Provides instruction to law enforcement agencies on the ever-changing laws of detention, search and seizure, search warrants and line-ups, thus increasing the probability of successful prosecutions.

What if I have reason to believe that my child may be endangered if left with the other parent?
Contact the Child Abduction Unit as soon as possible. The focus of the Child Abduction Unit is always what is in the best interest of the child. If you have a basis for belief that your child would suffer immediate bodily injury or emotional harm if a visitation or custody order were to be enforced, you must call the Child Abduction Unit within a reasonable amount of time (generally within 10 days). This will protect you from criminal prosecution of child abduction while you secure a new court order. You are required to maintain contact with the Child Abduction Unit until a new or modified court order is obtained (generally within 30 days). Failure to call or maintain contact with the Child Abduction Unit may be viewed as an attempt to conceal the child illegally and could result in criminal charges being filed against you.

Are visitation/custody rights directly related to the payment of child support?
Absolutely not. Although a responsible parent will pay their support regularly, a parent’s right to custody and /or visitation does not change, even if child support payments lapse or fall in arrears. A custodial parent cannot withhold visitation solely based on the non-payment of child support. Also, a non-custodial parent cannot refuse to pay child support based on a denial of visitation/ custody by the custodial parent. For more information on child support issues, go to Monterey County Child Support Services webpage.

What should I do to prepare, just in case my child is abducted?
If you have reason to believe that your children may be abducted by their non-custodial parent, be sure to keep the following documents and information readily available:

  • Birth certificates, passports and current photographs of your children.
  • Certified copy of current court order.
  • Log of incidents in which threats of abduction are made.
  • List of names and telephone numbers of the non-custodial parent’s relatives and close friends.

What if my child is abducted by a stranger or someone without custodial rights?
The focus of the Monterey County District Attorney's Office Child Abduction Unit is parental child abduction. Stranger abductions are handled by the local law enforcement agency where the abduction occurred.

Who do I call if I have more questions?
For more information contact the Monterey County District Attorney's Office Child Abduction Unit at (831) 647-7770.