Five-year-old Alex Meid’s room has been untouched for months even though he hasn’t slept there in nearly a year. His father, Brian Meid, still has unopened Christmas presents waiting for him in the basement.
When that wrapping paper will be ripped open and when Alex will lay his head down to rest in that room again, however, is anyone’s guess.
Alex is currently with his mother, Yu Na, in China. A year ago, Brian drove his son and ex-wife to the airport for what was supposed to be a 45-day trip to Yu Na’s homeland. They’ve yet to return as she has pulled off a successful international child abduction.
In the year since, Brian, who is a Utah information technology worker and former U.S. Marine, has pulled out all the stops trying to bring his son home. He’s now broke, having spent $50,000 fighting for Alex’s return in addition to another $58,000 for his divorce.
He has contacted the U.S. State Department-Office of Children’s Issues, the local police, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the FBI. Sadly, there isn’t much those agencies can really do to help him.
That’s because China, with the exception of Hong Kong and Macau, is not one of the 72 countries that are members of the Hague Convention.
The Hague Convention is “a multilateral treaty, which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return.”
Parents involved in a custody dispute with a spouse from another country should be aware of the risks of international child abduction, because when a parent successfully absconds with a child to a non-Hague country, there are shockingly few options of recourse for the other parent to take to fight for the return of the child. Those countries don’t recognize U.S. custody orders.
There have even been cases where parents have been imprisoned for trying to bring their child home.
Brian could file abduction charges against Yu Na with the Justice Department, but he told Yahoo Parenting that he was advised that doing so could force her into hiding. It would also be difficult to enforce since there is no extradition treaty between the countries.
Brian has tried, unsuccessfully, to negotiate a voluntary return by enlisting the help of a mediation firm based out of the Netherlands that specializes in international child abductions. In October, he traveled to China with several attorneys to try to work out an agreement.
That was the last time he saw his son.
He shares joint legal custody with Yu Na, but has submitted a petition to modify the order through the Chinese Central Authority. That could take up to nine months. If she fails to respond within 20 days, he could gain sole custody, but it is uncertain whether China would accept the order.
“It’s been really rough this last 10 months,” Brian said in a video posted to YouTube. “Every time I see another father holding his son or doing something with his boy, it tears me up inside. … I don’t have anywhere else to turn.”
His final legal option is involving the courts in China. That will be very expensive and involve a lot of travel back and forth between countries.
To raise money for his fight, Brian has started a Crowd Rise campaign. So far, he’s raised more than $4,000, but he has a long way to his goal of $100,000.
“I will never give up this fight,” Brian told Yahoo Parenting.
Tragically, no one knows how long that fight will last.