By Wendi Schuller
Author of “The Global Guide To Divorce”
Abduction is taking a child out of the country without the other parent’s permission.
Sometimes abduction occurs when one is uninformed about the law and other times it is an intentional act. It can be part of a war between two parents without the child’s best interest at heart.
Depending upon one’s divorce decree, it may be that one parent only has to inform the other regarding a planned journey abroad. This is more in the case where one parent has physical custody and the other has limited contact, such as with abuse. In the United Kingdom it may be possible to take a child out of the country for under one month without permission, when the youngster primarily lives with one parent. Check with your lawyer first.
It is much easier and less traumatic to take measures to prevent kidnapping rather than deal with it after the fact. Look at odd behaviors of the other parent which may indicate that there is a flight risk. Have they quit their job, sold their house and cutting ties with the community? Certainly if the kids mention that the co-parent wants to move – take notice without pumping them for information.
There are precautions to take. Obtain legal counsel to ensure you are doing everything possible to prevent an abduction. Who holds the kids’ passports, you or the co-parent? If you have them in your possession, do not hand them over to the other parent without legal advice.
My ex requested my sons’ passports for a trip to Mexico. The teens refused to leave the country with him, so I kept the passports.
When kids are older, they may have more say in declining a jaunt abroad. If the youngsters are dual citizens, check with the other country’s embassy to see what the requirements are for obtaining a passport for a minor. The other parent may abduct the kids by getting another passport for them in the country of his or hers birth. If you both moved abroad for work and are still married, consider hanging on to the kids’ passports. This lessens the chance that your spouse may depart with the little ones if your marriage is ending.
If your ex-spouse seems like they may do a runner with the kids, attempt to get supervised visitation. One parent gave his boy a track phone with a few numbers programmed into it. This way, if in a dicey situation, the lad could make an emergency call from inside the bathroom. A surveillance company may be able to insert a GPS tracking device into the child’s clothing or possession. One may want to have risk factors assessed by an international attorney to ascertain the possibility of a parental kidnapping.
The U.S. has a Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) to notify a parent when the other one is applying to get a passport for their child. A child cannot be prevented from leaving the US unless there is a court order which prohibits this. Speak to an attorney about getting this court order in place which is essential in an emergency. Remember to tell the CPIAP if your contact information changes.
The U.S. Department of State has an easy to use website with a wealth of information relating to preventing child abduction, including which countries participate in The Hague Abduction Convention.
The Hague Abduction Convention’s purpose is to encourage that a child is returned to their country quickly. This is determined by the custody in the divorce decree. In the UK, this is called the Child Arrangements Order. Countries in this convention have a central authority, which works with the parents and governments to locate the child. Countries who are not part of this treaty may not be that cooperative in returning the child. Parents may want to consult an attorney in the country where they reside and also one in the country where the child has been abducted.
What if you suspect that your child is being abducted right now? Contact the other parent to see what is happening. Go to the police with a copy of your custody/child arrangements order, copy of child’s passport, and photo of other parent.
In the UK, take these documents to the police, who will then give your child’s name to the exit points – airports, Eurostar, ports etc. Talk to your lawyer immediately as time is of the essence.
In the U.S., call the office of Children’s Issues, Prevention Branch at 1-888-407-4747. Alert law enforcement of a court order if applicable, since this gives them authority to stop a child abduction. Have the police do a missing child report so the youngster is put in the National Crime Information Center NCIC. If you had not contacted an experienced lawyer before this emergency, get one now.
When you travel, take your custody/child arrangements order, permission granted, and attorney’s phone number with you, in case your ex-spouse tries to accuse you of international kidnapping. This happened to me during the divorce, and my attorney had to point out that I had his permission for this vacation. This false accusation could have delayed our trip when trying to leave the country, if we had not already arrived in Germany.
If your ex-spouse denies permission to take the children out of the country, you are risking legal action if you do so anyways. Consult with an attorney in this situation rather than hoping you do not get caught.
Reunite is a UK charity which has loads of resources and information when a child has been abducted internationally. They give support to family members. They have articles on preventing child abduction which is helpful no matter where in the world you reside. Their informative website gives tips about countries who do not participate in The Hague Abduction Convention.
If tempted to hire someone like Rambo to get your child back from a foreign country, please wait and discuss options with your attorney first.
Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certified in Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). Her most recent book is “The Global Guide to Divorce” and she has over 100 published articles. Her other book is “The Woman’s Holistic Guide to Divorce.” Learn more at her website atglobalguidetodivorce.com.