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In the event your child is missing, neither parent has the child, and no one has permission to have the child, then this is kidnapping. Please call 911 immediately.


Child abduction, or parental abduction, is when one parent conceals a child from the other parent or refuses to return the child or allow visitation of the child, in contradiction of a court order.

Absent rare and unfortunate circumstances, depriving a child to be with a parent is a severe injustice to the child’s mental and emotional growth.

child holding parents hand

(800) 843-5678



San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office
Child Abduction Unit

303 W. 3rd Street
San Bernardino, CA 92415
(909) 382-3800

National Center For Missing And Exploited Children
(800) 843-5678


Inland County Legal Services
San Bernardino
(909) 884-8615

Lawyer Referral Service
San Bernardino
(909) 888-6791

Legal Aid
San Bernardino
(909) 889-7328

(951) 369-5653

(800) 782-7463


Under California law, child abduction basically means violating another person’s right to physical custody or visitation of a child. A violation may result from taking, enticing away, keeping, withholding, or concealing the child. The term “child abduction” refers to parental-type abductions, not to kidnapping by a stranger.

Yes. The law focuses mainly on the rights of the left-behind parent, not the rights of the abducting parent. If the left-behind parent has a right to joint custody or to visitation, then it may be child abduction for another parent to violate that right.

If you are the child’s natural parent as defined by California law, you may be the victim of child abduction. A natural parent automatically has a right to physical custody of his or her child. No one, not even another parent, may violate that right.

Court orders from other states or countries normally are enforceable in California. So, if you live in California, it is child abduction for someone to deprive you of custody or visitation, even if your rights are based on court orders from another state or country.

As long as the abductor keeps the child from you, the statute of limitations normally does not apply. It applies only under the following circumstances:

  • At some point, you have consented to the abductor taking or retaining the child
  • You legally lose your right to custody or visitation, like a court order
  • The child is returned to you
  • The child turns 18

It depends on whether or not you have a legal right to custody.

If you do not have a legal right to physical custody of the child, you should immediately contact law enforcement or a child protective agency to report the danger. You may not withhold the child any longer than necessary to contact law enforcement or a child protective agency.

  • You must file a “Good Cause” report with the district attorney as soon as possible.
  • You must seek a court order granting you custody. Your request must be filed with the court as soon as reasonably possible. Any delay beyond 30 days may subject you to prosecution for child abduction.

It depends on where you live.

If you live in San Bernardino County, contact your local law enforcement agency to make a report. The agency will forward the report to our office for investigation. You should also fill out and submit the questionnaire available here. Once we have received the police report and questionnaire, we will attempt to locate or recover the child.

If you live in another California county, contact your county’s district attorney to find out how to report child abduction in your county. You should do this even if your current custody or visitation orders came from a San Bernardino County court.

If you live outside California, your state or country may or may not actively enforce child custody orders. The law and policy of your state or country determine this. This applies even if your current custody or visitation orders came from a San Bernardino County court. In some cases, we can assist a government agency from your state or country when an abducted child is located in our county.

If you have a right to custody that is being violated, CAU can help you locate and recover your child. The first step is to make a police report, as explained above.

The child abduction unit has located and recovered children from all over the United States and the world. The United States and many other countries have signed a written agreement or treaty to return abducted children found within their borders. It is called the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

You can use the forms and instructions available at the California Courts Self-Help Center here.


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