When most people think of abduction, there is usually one scenario that comes to mind: a child is walking home or is left alone in a busy shopping mall when they are suddenly grabbed and taken away by a stranger, never to be seen again. And while that traumatic situation certainly happens, there is another scenario that is not as well known. Approximately one-fourth of children who are abducted each year are taken by a family member, often after a long and difficult child custody battle. These situations can be difficult for parents and law enforcement to rectify, especially when the child is taken across state lines or to a different country.

Of the 800,000 children who are reported missing in the United States every year, approximately 200,000 are taken by parents or other family members, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Depending on the details surrounding the abduction, law enforcement agencies often find their hands tied, with no legal way to get the child back to his or her custodial parent.

This is especially true when children are taken to different countries. In these situations, resolving the abduction requires the cooperation of law enforcement agencies from each country, often including international police organization Interpol. According to FBI supervisory special agent Matt Dunn, efforts to resolve abductions are often blocked by the destination country, leaving the FBI without jurisdiction and powerless to get the child back. "We just can't go into Mexico and drag someone back over state lines," Dunn said. "It really depends on the country. There may be nothing we can do."

While abductions across state lines are generally easier to resolve, FBI assistant agent in charge Keith Moses says that when visitation turns into abduction, the kidnapping parents often have a support system to help them avoid police interference. "The norm is that the parent will take a child out of state lines. What complicates it is that you have groups out there that do nothing but help these people go underground," he said. "It's simply a cat-and-mouse game."

Source: The Tennessean, "Child abductions by family tough to prosecute", Erin Quinn, 4 December 2010