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Legal Resources

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We understand that cases of missing and sexually exploited children often raise difficult and complex issues. NCMEC’s Office of Legal Counsel is ready to help by providing valuable resources and assistance for legislators, attorneys, families, law enforcement, and the internet industry, including case specific legal, educational, technical and related research and analysis, as well as publications, amicus briefs, and other trial related materials.


Legal Training

We offer legal trainings relating to NCMEC’s mission, including an overview of NCMEC resources, the unique legal challenges related to child sexual exploitation cases, preventing and responding to family abductions, and international missing child cases arising under treaties such as the Hague Child Abduction Convention.

Legal Guides and Manuals

We provide legal resource information for families and professionals in published materials, including:

Litigating International Child Abduction Cases Under the Hague Convention

(legal manual for attorneys)

Family Abduction: Prevention & Response

(guide for families and professionals with practical guidance and extensive legal information)

Missing Children, State Care, and Child Sex Trafficking: Engaging the Judiciary in Building a Collaborative Response

(a technical assistance guide for judges and stakeholders in the court system)

Legislative Affairs

We provide technical assistance and policy recommendations to members of Congress, state legislators, and government entities about issues related to missing and exploited children. This work includes providing testimony to the U.S. Congress and input on child protection issues and responding to media inquiries about proposed laws regarding child protection issues.

The Law

State Abduction Laws

Family abduction is recognized as a crime in every state, although individual state criminal laws vary widely. For a comprehensive summary of state criminal custodial interference laws, refer to a compilation of "Parental Kidnapping Statutes" located on the website of the National District Attorneys Association. 

  • The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) has now been adopted as state law in nearly every state and territory in the U.S. The UCCJEA provides clearer standards for the exercise of jurisdiction over child custody cases among the states and provides a specific, effective mechanism for enforcement of out-of-state custody orders, including custody orders from another country.
  • The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA) was introduced in 2006 to help courts identify children at risk of domestic and international abduction and provide numerous prevention measures a court can incorporate into a custody order.
  • The Fugitive Felon Act (18 U.S.C. § 1073) authorizes federal authorities to assist with the apprehension of state law fugitives, including those charged with parental kidnapping, through the issuance of a federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP) warrant.

International Abduction Laws

The US is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention, an international treaty that establishes a civil mechanism to ensure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained outside of the US. 

  • The federal International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA) (42 U.S.C. §§ 11601-11610) implements the Hague Convention and authorizes state and federal courts to hear cases under this treaty when a child has been unlawfully brought into or retained in the United States.
  • The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act ("IPKCA") (18 U.S.C. § 1204 ) makes it a crime to remove or attempt to remove a child younger than 16 years old from the U.S. or to retain a child who is in the U.S., with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights. Congress has clarified, through the Extradition Treaties Interpretation Act of 1998, that U.S. authorities shall interpret the term "kidnapping" to include parental kidnapping in any criminal extradition treaty to which the United States is a party

Federal and State Exploitation Laws

Federal law criminalizes the sexual exploitation of children. The range of prohibited conduct is enumerated in several different statutes, summarized here by the US Department of Justice, while The National District Attorneys Association's National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse has compiled relevant state statutes in a number of different issue areas including kidnapping, mandated reporting, child pornography, sex offender registration, self-exploitation/sexting and trafficking.