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How to Find an Absent Parent

Updated February 21, 2017

An absent parent often is defined as a person who has abandoned his children and the parent's whereabouts are unknown. Some states also have additional legal definitions, such as calling parents who do not physically live with the child "absent." There are many reasons why someone may want to track down an absent parent. Sometimes, it is because that parent owes child support. However, the child simply may want to get to know her missing parent. Use a combination of traditional investigative methods, such as interviews, technology and outside help to find an absent parent.

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  1. Interview the absent parent's extended family if possible. The relatives may know how to contact the person or have ideas about the location. If they are unwilling to cooperate or you cannot find the extended family, talk to both parents' friends. Anyone who knew the absent parent could provide valuable information.

  2. Talk with the present parent about what she remembers. Repeat the interview several times, which can help jog memories and encourage the parent to share all of the available information.

  3. Access the child's birth records to glean as much information as possible. Birth certificates usually list several pieces of identifying information, such as social security numbers, that can be useful in an absent parent search.

  4. Use social media outlets to look up information on the absent parent. Search under "find people" or "people search" functions. Try several name combinations of the person's name, including nicknames. For example, search for Marge and Peggy for an absent mother named Margaret, and try Billy, Bill, Willy and Will for fathers named William.

  5. File a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request to obtain public records on the absent parent. For example, file a request with the local voter registration board to obtain voter registration information, which is a matter of public record.

  6. Enter all information gathered into Internet databases that search for people. These search engines pull information from public records and other publicly available information published on the Web. Try several different searches, narrowing down the search by state or keeping the option open in case the absent parent has moved.

  7. Contact your state's child support enforcement office and provide a caseworker with all known information on the absent parent. The offices tend to have broader access to personal information, such as searching driver's license records, in cases of delinquent child support.

  8. Hire a private investigator to find the absent parent. Although the investigator will likely use some of the same search methods, he has practice in such cases and can probably devote more time to the search.

  9. Warning

    Be prepared for the possibility that the absent parent does not want to be found and may not agree to a reunion, if that is your goal.

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Things You'll Need

  • Birth records

About the Author

Tallulah Philange

Tallulah Philange has worked as a journalist since 2003. Her work has appeared in the "Princeton (N.J.) Packet," "Destinations" magazine and in higher education publications. She also has edited and produced online content for those publications. Philange holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from American University and a Master of Arts in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University.

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