Cutting Off Child Abduction

More and more families live in two households in different states and different countries and it can be difficult to let your children visit if you are concerned the other parent will not return them.  The following is a list of actions that a parent can take to prevent and avoid child abduction:
1.    Contact the OCI. Ask the Office of Children’s Issues in the Department of State to flag a U.S. passport application for your child and/or to deny issuance of a U.S. passport for the child.  If your child has a U.S. Passport, revoke it.  (www.travel.state.gov)
2.    Contact the foreign government. If the child is a dual national, write to the embassy or consulate of the foreign country, and ask that the foreign government not  issue a passport for your child. Also, request to be notified if it receives an application for a passport or visa for the child. Send a certified copy of your custody decree with your letter.
3.    Photos.  Take pictures of the child, profile shots as well as front poses, and video.
4.    Description of Child.  Keep a complete written description of the child. Include hair and eye color, height, weight, date of birth, birthmarks, other unique physical attributes. List other features such as glasses, contact lenses, braces, pierced ears, and tattoos.
5.    SSN. Record the child’s Social Security number.
6.    Fingerprints. Have the child fingerprinted.
7.    Phone skills.  Teach the child to use the telephone to call for help. Make sure the child knows the custodial parent’s home and work telephone numbers, including area codes and how to call an operator in an emergency. Tell the child the parent will accept collect calls.
8.    Contact police.  Notify local police department or prosecutor if a parent makes abduction threats, especially if the parent making the threats has recently quit a job, sold a home, terminated a lease, closed a bank account, or taken any other action in preparation for flight.
9.    Contact Caregivers.  Notify schools, daycare centers, and babysitters of custody orders. If you fear an abduction, tell the principal and guidance counselor and ask them to alert teachers and school staff. Give them a photograph of the noncustodial parent. Ask to be alerted immediately if the noncustodial parent makes any unscheduled visits or if the child fails to arrive at school, daycare, or after school programs. Instruct them not to allow the child to leave the grounds without your permission.
10.    Collect information pertaining to the other parent.  Keep a list of personal information about the other parent. Include the other parent’s address, telephone number(s), Social Security or citizen identification number, driver’s license number, passport number, credit cards, bank accounts, birth date, and place of birth. Gather the same information for relatives and friends–in the United States and abroad–who might help the abductor carry out an abduction. Having it can simplify efforts to locate the abductor and recover the child should an abduction occur.
11.    Contact airlines.  Contact airlines the abductor might use to leave the country and ask for their cooperation in alerting you promptly if reservations are made or tickets issued in the child’s name.
Tamar Oberman Faulhaber is an Attorney with Cordell & Cordell at their Atlanta office.

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