When A Parent “Abducts” A Child

police car, top of the car

Can a biological parent abduct his or her own child? Does abduction only occur when there is a custody dispute or divorce? The answer is “yes” a biological parent can abduct his or her own child and, “no”, a custody dispute or divorce is not a necessary precursor.


A Chicago woman and her two sons, 9 and 11, were recently found “safe and unharmed” in Wisconsin after they were reported missing. Police say the mother abducted the boys and the family dog and then called her husband and said he’d “never see his boys again.”


The husband reported the case to police and it was widely reported on the news. Nonetheless, an AMBER Alert was never issued. Chicago Police requested one but it was turned down by the Illinois State Police. The State Police spokeswoman said the case did not meet the criteria for an AMBER alert because the mother was both the boys’ biological mother and a custodial parent. So while the Chicago police considered it an abduction, the State of Illinois did not.


The five criteria for an AMBER Alert, as recommended by the U.S. Justice Department, are:

• There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.

• The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.

• There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.

• The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.

• The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the child abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center system.


Presumably, the State of Illinois gives weight to the biological and custodial relationship in assessing whether an abduction actually occurred and there is imminent danger of serious injury. As a general rule, the biological/custodial relationship cannot shield a parent from being the subject of an AMBER Alert.

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