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The real risk of parental child abduction: What you should know

Many parents worry about the risks of a kidnapping and may refuse to let their children play outside on their own in order to keep an eye on them. While caution is always wise, it is important to note that parental child abduction is more common than random kidnappings and that the greatest risks come from relatives and parents.

For instance, according to reports from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), there are roughly 200,000 family kidnappings annually. Experts claim that these types of abductions by family members are a top reason for missing child reports.

If you think that number is stunning, just consider this: A lot of kidnappings do not get reported at all. The statistics just take into account the official reports, so they represent a minimum. The reality is that many more children get abducted by family members who fail to report it.

Why does this happen? There are many reasons, and it typically revolves around one parent trying to forcibly take custody of the child, perhaps due to a fear of losing custody rights in court. Divorce is quite common and fairly easy, potentially making abductions more common, and the relative ease of travel in the United States -- and international travel, in some cases -- gives parents the opportunity they're looking for.

If you're involved in a child custody battle, it's important to keep the potential threat of a child abduction in mind. Make sure that you know your rights and all the options you have to keep this from happening -- or to react to an abduction and regain custody of your child as quickly as possible.

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