Child abduction occurs when a child is unlawfully taken, kidnapped, or held against his/her will or without the consent of his/her parent or legal guardian.
Child abduction laws vary significantly from one state to another. Generally, child abduction is considered to be a criminal offense, punishable by criminal conviction and sentencing.
However, the uncertainty and legal variation occurs when a child is abducted by his/her parent. In some states, including California and Texas, parental child abduction is considered to be a criminal offense.
However, in many locations throughout the United States, if the parents have failed to establish an official custody agreement, child abduction laws do not recognize parental child abduction as being a criminal offense.
Intrastate child abduction occurs when a child is unlawfully taken across state borders. This is often considered to be a Federal offense.
Criminal law contains additional information regarding child abduction and associated laws.