What is International Child Abduction?

Legal Definition
The term international child abduction is generally synonymous with international parental kidnapping, child snatching, and child stealing. However, the more precise legal usage of international child abduction originates in private international law and refers to the illegal removal of children from their home by an acquaintance or family member to a foreign country. In this context, "illegal" is normally taken to mean "in breach of custodial rights" and "home" is defined as the child's habitual residence. As implied by the "breach of custodial rights," the phenomenon of international child abduction generally involves an illegal removal that creates a jurisdictional conflict of laws whereby multiple authorities and jurisdictions could conceivably arrive at seemingly reasonable and conflicting custodial decisions with geographically limited application. Such a result often strongly affects a child's access and connection to half their family and may cause the loss of their former language, culture, name and nationality, it violates numerous children's rights, and can cause severe psychological and emotional trauma to the child and family left behind.

There is a common misconception that because the abductor in these cases is usually not a stranger the children are not in danger. The harmful consequences for children and families have been shown in several studies and child abduction has been characterized as a form of parental alienation and child abuse. Adding international dimensions to the detrimental effects of child abduction significantly increases the detrimental effects on children and families. The modern day ease of international travel and corollary increase in international marriages is leading to a rapid rise in the number of international child abductions.

International child abduction occurs when one parent takes a child before child custody ends at age 18, to a foreign country (example China, India and Japan) and keeps him or her there without the other parent’s permission. If that parent refuses to bring the child under the age of 16 back to the United States, it’s considered a federal crime in the United States. It does not matter if the child does not want to return to the United States, or if the courts in the other country (example China, India and Japan) allow the taking parent to keep the child in the other country (example China, India and Japan). The taking parent can face up to three years in United States Federal prison, even when the child is over the age of 18, does not want to ever see the left behind parent again and does not want the taking parent to face criminal charges or go to jail. According to law, the left behind parent is legally the only victim if the child is not returned before child custody ends at age 18. This is because child custody does not have anything to do with children’s rights or welfare only parental rights.

Both in common law and in civil law, a rebuttable presumption (in Latin, praesumptio iuris tantum) is an assumption made by a court, one that is taken to be true unless someone comes forward to contest it and prove otherwise. For example, a defendant in a criminal case is presumed innocent until proved guilty. According to law, in an International child abduction the left behind parent is legally the only victim, if the child is not returned before child custody ends at age 18. This is because child custody does not have anything to do with children’s rights or welfare only parental rights.

This only applies to children before they turn 18 years old. This does not apply to children after they turn 18 and are legal an adult, then a custody order does not apply and they can decide where to live.
-- Wikipedia