Guarding Against International Parental Child Abduction


Source: Divorce Lawyer Blog

Parental child abduction is a federal crime. It is also a tragedy that jeopardizes children and has substantial long-term consequences for the “left-behind” parent, the child, the family, and society.

Children who are abducted by their parents are often suddenly isolated from their extended families, friends, and classmates. They are at risk of serious emotional and psychological problems. Similarly, left-behind parents experience a wide range of emotions including betrayal, loss, anger, and depression. In international cases, they often face unfamiliar legal, cultural, and linguistic barriers that compound these emotions.

International Parental Child Abduction Is Illegal

Under the laws of the United States and many foreign countries, international parental child abduction is crime. Removing a child from the United States against another parent’s wishes can be considered a crime in every U.S.state. In some cases an abducting parent may be charged with a Federal crime under the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA). This can be the case even when neither parent holds a custody decree prior to the abduction. Nevertheless, a custody decree can be helpful to prevent an international parental child abduction, or to recover your child if he/she is abducted.

The Importance of a Custody Decree

A well-written custody decree is an important line of defense against international parental child abduction. In your custody decree, it may be advisable to include a statement that prohibits your child from traveling abroad without your permission or that of the court. Ask your attorney if you should obtain a decree of sole custody or a decree that prohibits the travel of your child without your permission or that of the court. If you have or would prefer to have a joint custody decree, you may want to make certain that it prohibits your child from traveling abroad without your permission or that of the court.

If your child is at risk of being taken to a country that partners with the United States under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention), your custody decree should include the terms of the Hague Abduction Convention that apply if there is an abduction or wrongful retention.

The American Bar Association also suggests requesting the court, if the other parent is not a U.S.citizen or has significant ties to a foreign country, to require that parent to post a bond. This may be useful both as a deterrent to abduction and, if forfeited because of an abduction, as a source of revenue for you in your efforts to locate and recover your child.

REMINDER: Obtain several certified copies of your custody decree from the court that issued it. Give a copy to your child’s school and advise school personnel to whom your child may be released.

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