There Is No 'Winner' in a Custody Battle That Includes a Kidnapping

ayla reynoldsAnother toddler has gone missing. Ayla Reynolds, whose parents live separately, was last seen at her father's house in Maine. We don't know exactly what happened to Ayla, but some of the classic signs of a custody battle gone wrong are here: The mother, Trista Reynolds, had filed for sole custody of her daughter just before Ayla went missing (Trista says her ex didn't know). She also says she hasn't spoken with the father, Justin Di Pietro, since the disappearance when you'd think the two would want to share information. And Trista doesn't currently have a permanent home of her own.

As the details of this story come out, I can't help wondering if one of the parents is responsible: Was it Trista who kidnapped her daughter, or Justin? It's rare, but it happens -- children sometimes do get kidnapped by a parent during a custody battle. And unfortunately, the person this hurts the most is the child.


There's Liam McCarty, a 5-year-old kidnapped by his Italian-born mother. And there's the lesbian mom who became an evangelical Christian and fled with her daughter to Nicaragua. There's the Jacksonville mom to hired two men to kidnap her son from his father because she believed he was homeless. And the stories go on and on.

Much of the time, the parent who kidnaps thinks they are acting in the child's best interest. They don't want their child exposed to whatever toxic soup of dysfunction they see their ex inhabiting. But meanwhile, the child is cut off from a parent without getting to say goodbye. Imagine going to sleep one place and waking up in another -- or being carried away in the middle of the night and then being told crazy stories about your parent and learning that you'll never see them again! Except in the most extreme cases of abuse, kidnapping your child is a selfish act.

As bitter and difficult as custody battles get, the trauma of a kidnapping is worse. Ayla is old enough to be attached to her parents. And taking a shortcut around the legal process is not going to save anyone stress and grief in the long run. It's just going to make things even worse! I hope this isn't what happened with Ayla Reynolds. But if Ayla has been kidnapped by one of her parents, it's time to stop the madness now before things get worse.

Do you think a parent would ever be justified in kidnapping a child in a custody battle?


Image via National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

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