The Hague Convention – Japan says it will sign child abduction treaty


January 19, 2013

Source: Japan Today

WASHINGTON —

Japan’s foreign minister said Friday that the new government would sign a treaty on child abductions, addressing one of the few rifts in relations with its main ally the United States.

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Japan has not signed or ratified the 1980 Hague Convention, which requires the return of wrongfully held children to the countries where they usually live, but a previous left-leaning government had said it planned to do so.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, whose conservative Liberal Democratic Party returned to power last month, said on a visit to Washington that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government would take the same stance.

“The government of Japan is intending to go through the necessary procedures for early signing of the treaty,” Kishida told a news conference with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton said she hoped that Japan’s parliament would pass legislation on the Hague treaty during its upcoming session.

Japanese courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents or to fathers, leaving few legal avenues for fathers whose former partners have fled to Japan with their children.

U.S. parents have pursued at least 120 cases in Japan to seek access to half-Japanese children, invariably to no avail. The U.S. Congress has repeatedly pressed Japan to take up the issue.

The previous Japanese government’s position had initially heartened U.S. officials, but their hopes dimmed as Tokyo delayed action on the Hague treaty and indicated that a ratification would only apply to future cases.

Japanese critics of the Hague convention have previously argued that the country needs to protect women from potentially abusive foreign men.

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Review of Hague Abduction and Child Protection Conventions


Source: the Hague Conference on Private International Law

The Hague Conference on Private International Law is to convene Part II of the Sixth Special Commission Meeting to review the practical operation of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention and the 1996 Hague Child Protection Convention from 25th to 31st January 2012. 

The Child Abduction Convention applies typically where one parent has moved a child abroad without the consent of the other parent and without the permission of a court. In such a case, the “left behind” parent may apply through the Hague system for the prompt return of the child.

The Hague Child Protection Convention provides for co-operation among States Parties on a wide range of cross-border child protection matters, e.g., parental disputes over contact with children, the protection of runaway children and cross-border care.

The Special Commission programme includes, among other things, presentations and discussions on:

  • the enforcement of mediated agreements:
  • grave risk of harm defence in return proceedings;
  • international family relocation; and
  • the future of the Malta Process, a dialogue between senior judges and high ranking government officials from Contracting States to the 1980 and 1996 Conventions and non-Contracting States with Sharia based law. The Process is aimed at improving State co-operation in order to assist with resolving difficult cross-border family law disputes in situations where the relevant international legal framework is not applicable.
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What is Needed Under The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction To Get My Child Back?


Source: Internationalchildcustody.com

The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction sets out standards for what is needed to apply for a return order of a child that is a victim of parental abduction or who has been wrongfully withheld by a non-custodial parent. Those standards are set out in Article 7:

Central Authorities shall co-operate with each other and promote co-operation amongst the competent authorities in their respective States to secure the prompt return of children and to achieve the other objects of this Convention.
In particular, either directly or through any intermediary, they shall take all appropriate measures –
a) to discover the whereabouts of a child who has been wrongfully removed or retained;
b) to prevent further harm to the child or prejudice to interested parties by taking or causing to be taken provisional measures;
c) to secure the voluntary return of the child or to bring about an amicable resolution of the issues;
d) to exchange, where desirable, information relating to the social background of the child;
e) to provide information of a general character as to the law of their State in connection with the application of the Convention;
f) to initiate or facilitate the institution of judicial or administrative proceedings with a view to obtaining the return of the child and, in a proper case, to make arrangements for organising or securing the effective exercise of rights of access;
g) where the circumstances so require, to provide or facilitate the provision of legal aid and advice, including the participation of legal counsel and advisers;
h) to provide such administrative arrangements as may be necessary and appropriate to secure the safe return of the child;
i) to keep each other informed with respect to the operation of this Convention and, as far as possible, to eliminate any obstacles to its application.

In theory each signatory country has a duty to aid in the return of a child who has been wrongfully withheld or is the victim of Parental Abduction. In the United States that duty is coordinated through the State Department who designates local authorities such as the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office to aid in the return of abducted children. In reality, many times the victim parent hires private attorneys such as Pisarra & Grist to aid in the process.

Also read: The Hague Convention – Proved useless

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935% rise in child kidnapping / Abductions in 15 years


Source: TheSundayGuardian

While there is much hoopla about increasing crime rate in general, a report by a Delhi-based NGO, published last week reveals that kidnapping and abduction of children have increased by 935% in the last 15 years.

According to Twenty Years of CRC: A Balance Sheet, a study by HAQ: Centre for Child Rights that analysed the 2009 report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of reported cases on kidnapping of children in India increased from 894 in 1994 to 8,945 in 2009. These numbers are even more disturbing when you consider that NCRB takes only the First Information Report (FIR) and not the Daily Dairy (DD) entries.

So is there an increase in the actual crime rate? Or is it that more people are reporting them now? A bit of both, but the latter is more likely, says Amod Kanth, chairman of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights. “In the 1990s, other than murders, not many reported a missing child. So, if a kid was kidnapped, unless he/she is from an affluent or rich family and the case got media attention, it was never reported. That’s why most cases end up as DD entries,” he explains.

“In 2008-2009, for instance, the NCRB reported that 2,982 kids went missing in Delhi, out of which 368 were found. In about a few months, due to my commission’s insistence, an investigation was conducted in each missing case and we recovered 1,700 kids. Many of those cases were converted from a missing report to kidnapping. The courts (HC and SC) insist that missing cases have to be registered as kidnapping but it is done only if the family or parents of the child raise the issue,” he adds.

There is also another problem. Policemen are often accused of being lackadaisical in their preliminary investigation of DD entries. “An FIR is filed only after the police verify the facts of the DD entry. Most of the time, they do a hotch-potch job and close the case saying they didn’t find any credible evidence to pursue it,” says Bharti Ali, co-director of the Delhi-based NGO.

Kanth concurs and adds that registration creates accountability. “Senior policemen rarely sidestep child kidnapping cases. If there is a lapse, it is only because the system is obsessed with curbing crime through numbers,” he retorts. “If a senior officer files an FIR, it adds a number to the crime rate and that’s never a good sign. When number of crimes has increased, the legal system, senior bureaucrats that policemen report to and even the media hype the numbers, without understanding how the system works. Finally, the law enforcement agencies look like culprits.”

Ali also blames the infighting between courts and commission. “They argue about who is in-charge of the case and hardly interact. For instance, when the government locates child labourers, they’re sent home without producing them to the Child Welfare Committee. How can we track them?”

Moreover, when children from rich or affluent families are kidnapped, often the accused is known to the family. “If there’s demand for money, most families pay the ransom and don’t report the case. Their only concern is safety of the child, which is understandable but on the downside, the criminals remain unidentified,” adds Ali.

Poor kids are kidnapped often for trafficking, labour, marriage, begging, slavery, prostitution, etc. “I guarantee that out of the 8,945 cases in the report, at least three-fourth hail from the poorer sections of the society. Considering how time-consuming and expensive the legal system is, it’s hardly surprising that poor families rarely report a missing child,” she avers.

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Breaking News: Children in the European Union gain additional protection against international abduction


BRUSSELS, December 23, 2011 – Wednesday, the European Commission proposed the EU accept Russia and seven more countries as parties to an international convention designed to prevent child abduction. The 1980 Hague Convention ensures the prompt return of children abducted by one parent to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights.

International abduction by a parent is a global problem affecting several thousand children each year. Wednesday’s move will effectively extend protection for children in the EU to eight new countries: Russia, Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Gabon, Morocco, Seychelles and Singapore. The Convention has been ratified by 86 countries to date, including all EU members.

“Preventing child abduction is an essential part of the EU’s agenda for children’s rights,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner. “We already have strict rules in place to ensure abducted children can be returned and disputes swiftly solved within the EU. By welcoming Russia and others as EU counterparts under this international agreement, we can make sure children are similarly protected at a global level as well.”

If one parent in an abduction case comes from outside the EU, the Hague Convention only applies if that parent’s country of origin is a member of the Convention. All EU Member States are party to the Convention and the European Commission actively promotes membership of the Convention at an international level so that children in the EU can be better protected worldwide.

This multilateral treaty does not seek to adjudicate in custody cases, but provides for a procedure whereby an abducted child can be returned promptly to his or her home country. Once sent back, the child’s local authorities can determine where and with whom the child should live. The Convention is also designed to secure protection for rights of access.

If a parent abducts a child within the EU, the so-called Brussels IIa Regulation (Council Regulation 2201/2003) imposes strict obligations to ensure the return of the child. Under the Regulation, the courts in the EU Member State to which the child has been abducted cannot refuse an order to return a child to the Member State of origin.

Data recently collected shows that the Regulation works well: in general, child abduction disputes between EU Member States are solved in a much more efficient and swift manner, thanks notably to the removal of the cumbersome ‘exequatur’ procedure. This means a shorter period for courts to recognise and enforce judgements from another Member State.

Article 38(4) of the 1980 Convention stipulates that the Convention applies between the acceding country and Contracting States that declare their acceptance of the accession. Therefore, the European Union has to decide whether to accept the accession of Russia and other countries.

As the matter of international child abduction falls into the exclusive external competence of the European Union, the decision whether the EU, via its Member States, should accept other countries’ accession to the 1980 Convention has to be taken by means of a Council Decision.

In February 2011, the Commission presented an EU agenda for reinforcing the rights of the child by putting the principles of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights into practice. It includes a series of concrete actions where the EU can provide added value to policies for children’s well-being and safety, including promoting child-friendly justice, better informing children about their rights, and making the internet safer for kids.

For more information: International Parental Child Abduction: The Hague convention – Proved Useless

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INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL ABDUCTIONS A GROWING PROBLEM


Source:Weinman & Associates

Of the 1,500 children who were victims of international parental abductions in 2010, less than 600 were recovered and brought back to the United States. The State Department estimates one-third of those children were taken to Mexico by way of border states like Texas.

The government reports a startling number of children abducted by their parents in the last decade – nearly 7,000 between 2000 and 2009. Many of the children are taken during scheduled non-custodial parent visitations and whisked away to a foreign-born parent’s native homeland.

On September 1, Texas will enact a new law making child abductions a state felony, but lawmakers and watchdog groups say it is still too easy for absconding parents with children to get away. Border officials have no nationwide child custody database and airlines are too time-crunched to check passengers carefully.

One former criminal prosecutor and judge said if a child is not intercepted before leaving the country, the chances for the child’s return to the U.S. become slim.

Mexico is one of more than 70 countries that have agreed to abide by Hague Convention’s child abduction rules, insisting that children who are illegally relocated out of a country be returned to their homes. However, legal professionals say international courts get bogged down or distracted by internal conflicts, like the drug war in Mexico, and put child custody matters aside.

Parents caught running with children to a foreign land in violation of custody rules can be imprisoned for three years. Congressional leaders have introduced the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, which could potentially threaten various forms of U.S. assistance to countries that have poor records of helping to retrieve abducted children. Hopefully the government will be able to come up with an effective way to locate and return abducted children to the United States.

We can bring them home

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What happens if your ex abducts your child?


By STEWART M. POWELL HOUSTON CHRONICLE  – July 4, 2011, 7:19AM

International parental abductions are on the rise, and many of the children never return

WASHINGTON — For nine gut-wrenching years, Texan Greg Allen has been trying to track down his daughter after her mother absconded to Mexico with the 4-year-old during a rare unsupervised visit after the couple’s contentious divorce.

“When it first happened, I was unable to function,” recalls Allen, 42, an electrical engineer and sonar expert doing doctoral research at the University of Texas’ applied research laboratories in Austin. “I went from being a single parent whose whole life revolved around raising my daughter to being a left-behind parent whose purpose in life was gone.”

Last year, at least 1,500 children were unlawfully taken to foreign countries by a parent who had been living in the United States, including children who were taken even while a parent was serving in the U.S. armed forces in Iraq or Afghanistan. Only 578 abducted children were returned to the United States.

Many of the children – roughly one-third – ended up in Mexico because of the parent’s ties to extended family or Mexico’s proximity.

International parental abductions are “sharply on the rise,” cautions the State Department’s top official on the issue, Ambassador Susan Jacobs. “When an international border is involved, an already tragic situation for the children and left-behind parents is infinitely compounded.”

Congress’ investigative Government Accountability Office has documented at least 6,966 cases of international parental abduction over the decade ending in 2009, most by foreign-born parents returning to their country of birth.

Yet, as Allen learned only too late, chronic ambiguities routinely enable parents to abduct their children and get away with it. Local police rarely take missing child reports arising from custody disputes. Customs and Border Protection agents do not check departing parents or children at airports or border crossings. Fully half of left-behind parents surveyed by the American Bar Association, for example, said ex-partners abducted their children during routine court-approved visits.

No national database

Federal authorities do not maintain a national database of child custody orders from local courts that might help suspicious immigration officers determine the status of a departing child.

Even if the paperwork were available, international airlines routinely have no more than 30 minutes to match a passenger manifest against a missing child report or a court order barring departure.

Abducting parents can face up to three years in prison for taking their child to a foreign country “with the intent to obstruct a parent’s custodial rights.”

A Texas law taking effect Sept. 1 makes the abduction a state felony, as well.

“The reality is, once an abducting parent gets a kid to the departure gate, they’re gone,” says Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, a former criminal court judge and prosecutor who has been working for more than five years to help Houston resident Marty Pate recover his daughter Nicole from Brazil. “Once a child leaves the United States, it’s very, very difficult to get them back.”

Allen miraculously spied his daughter Sabrina in Mexico City in 2003 and subsequently visited her school to talk with her teacher. But the girl and her mother, Dara Marie Llorens, fled and have not been seen since.

Even in the 71 nations such as Mexico that have signed the 1980 Hague Convention on child abduction, local court proceedings can drag on. The accord is designed to speed repatriation of abducted children under the age of 16 to their “country of habitual residence” to resume court-ordered child custody arrangements.

But court proceedings often get sidetracked, particularly in Mexican states engulfed by the drug wars such as San Luis Potosí and Tamaulipas.

“We have judges who are afraid to do anything,” says attorney Pamela Brown of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid in Weslaco, who handles about 20 international child abduction cases a year to and from Mexico. “Judges are terrified that the taking parent might have ties to the cartels so they won’t step in.”

Adds Allen: “With a civil war going on down there, child abduction is just not a high priority.”

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/chronicle/7638140.html#ixzz1R96U7CM5

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Dads warned to look out for signs of parental child abduction


30 JUNE 2011 – Fatherhoodinstitute.org

Dads are being advised on how to prevent their children’s mothers abducting them and taking them abroad.

According to a new Government campaign,  every other day a British child is abducted by a parent to a country which has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention on international parental child abduction*.

The latest figures represent a ten per cent increase in new cases handled by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2010/2011 and have been released to mark the launch of the FCO’s child abduction prevention campaign.

Evidence shows that many cases occur around school holidays when a parent refuses to return a child following a visit to the parent’s home country. In most cases these abductions are perpetrated by mothers.

Last year the FCO handled cases in 97 ‘non Hague’ countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. These are countries which have not signed up to the 1980 Hague convention on international parental child abduction and with whom negotiating the return of children to the UK can be extremely complex as there are no international agreements on returning children.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Jeremy Browne said the campaign will help people become more aware of what they could do if they think their child may be at risk.

“We are very concerned that we continue to see an increase in the number of cases of international parental child abduction. The latest figures suggest the problem affects people from all walks of life and not just certain types of families or particular countries. Finding a solution can be especially difficult if a child has been taken to a non-Hague country as there are no international systems in place to help you. This is why prevention is so important. The FCO will do whatever we can to provide advice and support but our role is limited, not least because we cannot interfere in the laws of another country.”

Sharon Cooke, Advice Line Manager for Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, welcomed the latest advice and said while sometimes there were no warning signs, there are things people could look for which may indicate their child was at risk.

“The most obvious warning sign is a break down in a relationship but other signs may include a sudden interest in getting a passport or copy birth certificate for the child; a parent expressing a wish to holiday alone with the child; a change in circumstances such as leaving employment or redundancy, selling a house or giving up tenancy. There may also be a sudden change in contact arrangements or constant difficulty in being able to see the child,” she said.

“For many people the issue of parental child abduction is something with which they may not have had direct personal contact. There’s often a perception – fuelled by a number of high profile cases – that it’s about fathers abducting their children, however statistics show it is mainly mothers – either intentionally or unintentionally.

Sharon says, “The latest figures show just how widespread this problem has become. Our statistics for January to May 2011 show a 21% increase in the number of abductions to non-Hague States states compared to the same period last year. We have also seen a 21% per cent increase in the number of parents requesting advice on prevention of abduction. This demonstrates there is a need for information on preventative steps that a parent can take and it is essential that we continue to raise awareness of parental child abduction, after all it could happen to anyone.”

“The psychological impact on children can be traumatic and for the left-behind parent, the shock and loss are unbearable, particularly if they don’t know where their child is. Even after they have been found, the fear and pain of not knowing if they will return home is unimaginable.”

“If you are worried your child might be at risk, or if your child has been abducted you can call the Child Abduction Section at the Foreign Office on 0207 008 0878 or http://www.fco.gov.uk or reunite on 0116 2556 234.

*”The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multi-lateral international treaty the aim of which is the return of a child who has been wrongfully removed or wrongfully retained away from the country where he or she normally lives, so that issues of residence (which parent a child should live with), relocation (which country a child should live in) and contact (access) can be decided by the courts of that country. “All cases that come under the Hague Convention are dealt with by one of the three Central Authorities in the UK (the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit covers England and Wales and there are two separate bodies for Scotland and Northern Ireland). To find out which countries are part of this Convention, visit http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.status&cid=24

**Top 5 non-Hague countries with the largest number of new parental child abductions in 2010/11

Country 2009/2010 2010/2011

All non-Hague countries 146 161

Pakistan 24 21

Thailand 13 13

India 14 9

Algeria 0 9

Malaysia 6 7

Further information on parental child abduction can be found at: www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/when-things-go-wrong/child-abduction.

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Increase In Parental Child Abduction From UK


8:26am UK, Wednesday June 29, 2011

The numer of abductions of British children by parents who then take them abroad has risen by 10% in the past year – prompting a campaign to combat the problem.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said the latest figures show one British child is taken every two days – a total of 161 in 2010/11.

The number taken to countries that have not signed up to an international treaty designed to ensure the return of minors who are wrongfully removed from the UK was up from 146 and 105 in the previous two years.

And it is feared the numbers may be even higher because of those that go unreported.

Countries that have not signed up to the 1980 Hague Convention are not compelled to abide by a UK court order.

The most obvious warning sign is a break down in a relationship but other signs may include a sudden interest in getting a passport or copy birth certificate for the child; a parent expressing a wish to holiday alone with the child.

FCO minister Jeremy Browne hopes the campaign will help people understand what they can do if they think their child may be at risk.

“The latest figures suggest the problem affects people from all walks of life and not just certain types of families or particular countries,” Mr Browne said.

“Finding a solution can be especially difficult if a child has been taken to a non-Hague country as there are no international systems in place to help you.

“This is why prevention is so important. The FCO will do whatever we can to provide advice and support but our role is limited, not least because we cannot interfere in the laws of another country.”

A child's bike

Evidence shows many abductions happen around school holidays when a parent refuses to return a child following a visit to the parent’s home country.

The problem has become widespread, with figures last year showing the FCO handled cases in 97 “non-Hague” countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

The message will be passed through websites Mumsnet and the Fatherhood Institute to spread the prevention message and make people aware of the support it can provide.

Sharon Cooke, from Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, said while sometimes there were no warning signs, there were things people could look for which might indicate their child was at risk.

“The most obvious warning sign is a breakdown in a relationship,” she said.

Jeremy Browne MP

FCO minister Jeremy Browne is backing the scheme

“Other signs may include a sudden interest in getting a passport or copy birth certificate for the child; a parent expressing a wish to holiday alone with the child; a change in circumstances such as leaving employment or redundancy, selling a house or giving up tenancy.

“There may also be a sudden change in contact arrangements or constant difficulty in being able to see the child.”

She added: “There’s often a perception – fuelled by a number of high profile cases – that it’s about fathers abducting their children.

“However, statistics show it is mainly mothers – either intentionally or unintentionally.

“The psychological impact on children can be traumatic and for the left-behind parent, the shock and loss are unbearable, particularly if they don’t know where their child is.”

:: Anyone worried their child might be at risk, or whose child has been abducted, can call the Child Abduction Section at the Foreign Office on 0207 008 0878.

People can also log on to the FCO’s website or contact Reunite on 0116 2556 234.

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Lesbians’ Child Custody Battle Turns Into International Manhunt


Monday, June 27, 2011
By JOHN CURRAN and FILADELFO ALEMAN, Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – Lisa Miller’s path from lesbian in committed relationship to international fugitive started in 2003.

She broke up with her partner, Janet Jenkins, renounced homosexuality and became an evangelical Christian before disappearing in 2009 with the daughter she had with Jenkins.

Now, what started as a custody battle over little Isabella Miller-Jenkins has turned into a global manhunt, with indications that Mennonite pastors and other faith-based supporters may have helped hide the two in Nicaragua and are now coming to the aid of one who the FBI says helped Miller.

Eager to keep the girl away from Jenkins and what they consider a dangerous and immoral lifestyle, they liken their roles to that of underground helpers aiding runaway slaves.

“God’s Holy Law never recognizes a gay marriage,” said Pablo Yoder, a Mennonite pastor in Nicaragua, in an email message to The Associated Press. “Thus, the Nicaraguan Brotherhood felt it right and good to help Lisa not only free herself from the so called civil marriage and lesbian lifestyle, but especially to protect her nine year old daughter from being abducted and handed over to an active lesbian and a whole-hearted activist.”

As the gay marriage movement gains momentum in the U.S. with impending legal recognition of the relationships in New York state, the case is a reminder of the obstacles and opposition that same-sex couples and their families can face.

The saga began in 2000, when Miller and Jenkins were joined in a civil union in Vermont. Two years later, Miller gave birth to the girl, through artificial insemination. The couple split in 2003, with Miller renouncing her homosexuality and becoming a Baptist, then a Mennonite.

Miller was originally granted custody of the girl, but her defiance of visitation schedules led courts in Vermont and Virginia to rule in favor of Jenkins, culminating in a judge’s 2009 decision to award custody to Jenkins.

After Miller and the girl failed to show for a court-ordered custody swap on Jan. 1, 2010, to hand the girl over to Jenkins, the hunt was on. A federal arrest warrant was issued for Miller, and her daughter’s name was added to the missing by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

But they were long gone: In 2009, two months before the judge ordered the custody change, Miller and the girl flew to Central America and took up residence for an unknown amount of time in Nicaragua before vanishing again.

So says the FBI, which revealed in April that it had arrested Nicaraguan missionary Timothy David “Timo” Miller and charged him with abetting an international kidnapping by helping arrange travel and lodging for the two. He is awaiting trial.

According to the FBI, Timo Miller — no relation to Lisa Miller — arranged to fly Miller and her daughter from Canada to Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua.

He’d never met her until they arrived at the airport, according to Loyal Martin, a friend of Timo Miller’s.

Timo Miller has pleaded not guilty and is free on $25,000 bail, awaiting trial. His attorney, federal public defender Steven Barth, won’t discuss the case. Another lawyer for Timo Miller, Jeffrey Conrad, of Lancaster, Pa., didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“Tim believes there is a higher law than the laws of any country that all people, including himself, are accountable to,” said Martin, 40, of Philadelphia, N.Y., who attended Miller’s first court appearance.

In an April 1 affidavit outlining the charge against Timo Miller, FBI agent Dana Kaegel noted the involvement of various religious groups and people involved — in some fashion — with Miller.

At a minimum, she appears to have had the support in the Mennonite community outside the capital of Managua.

Yoder, who works the remote village of Waslala, 161 miles from Managua, told The Associated Press she celebrated her daughter’s birthday in his house last year. He wouldn’t say more.

“She came here to have a good time, and we allowed her to celebrate her daughter’s birthday in my house because of the love we have for the girl,” Pablo Yoder said.

Yoder, who is mentioned in the FBI’s affidavit over an email exchange with Timo Miller planning the party, told the AP in an interview he couldn’t remember how long she stayed. She slept at the house of another pastor, according to Yoder, who would not name that person for fear it would lead to questioning by police.

Members of the church made a pact not to reveal any details to protect Timothy David Miller.

“We want to remain silent because we do not know whether it would cause him problems,” Yoder said. “The moment may arrive when we are going to want to talk, when we deem it necessary to tell Nicaragua the true story.”

Nicaraguan police haven’t questioned Yoder and other members of his church, he said in an interview last month.

“They know we are not involved in this matter,” said Yoder, who likens the help given to Lisa Miller to aid given by Mennonites and Quakers to the aid abolitionists gave runaway slaves.

Richard Huber, of Myerstown, Pa., a friend of Timo Miller’s who agreed to assume custody of him after his first court appearance, sees Timo Miller’s actions as faith-based.

“Choosing to heed God’s law over man’s would be an accurate way of putting it,” he said in an email message.

Miller may have gotten help from others drawn to her predicament for religious reasons.

The lawyer for Miller’s ex-partner, Janet Jenkins, told the FBI she got a call in June 2010 from someone — she won’t say who — who told her that Lisa Miller and the girl had stayed in a beach house in coastal San Juan del Sur, about 68 miles south of Managua.

The house is owned by Philip Zodhiates, the father of Liberty University law school administrative assistant Victoria Hyden, according to the FBI. Jenkins’ attorney, Sarah Star, told the FBI that the caller told her Zodhiates had asked his daughter to put out a request for supplies for Lisa Miller.

Located in Lynchburg, Va., Liberty University was founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. An affiliate of the university, conservative Christian law firm Liberty Counsel, formerly represented Miller in her court case in Vermont over custody of the girl.

Law school dean Mathew Staver — who leads Liberty Counsel — has said Zodhiates isn’t affiliated with either.

“From our perspective, she just dropped off the face of the Earth. We haven’t heard from her or from anyone who said they’ve heard from her,” Staver said of Lisa Miller.

Miller, 42, is wanted by the FBI and Interpol, which recently requested the help of Nicaraguan police in the search. U.S. Embassy officials in Nicaragua said they don’t know where she is.

“We have clues, but we do not want to reveal them so as not to hinder our investigation,” Fernando Borge, spokesman for the Nicaraguan national police, told the AP last month. “We can’t say either, at the moment, whether she is or is not in the country.”

A security guard at the hotel Royal Chateau in San Juan del Sur, Juan Garcia, told the AP last month he remembered seeing Miller and her daughter seated along the waterfront.

Back in Vermont, Jenkins waits for word on their whereabouts, a break in the case — or both.

“It is hard to understand how anyone could consider a childhood on the run better and more stable than one surrounded by family, with two parents and two sets of grandparents who can provide love and support,” Jenkins, who declined to be interviewed for this story, said in an email.

Timo Miller, meanwhile, awaits trial on the abetting count, which could send him to prison for three years. For now, he and his wife and their four children are staying in Pennsylvania, with Huber.

Supporters have rallied to Timo Miller’s his side. At his April 25 court appearance in federal court in Burlington, Vt., dozens of supporters turned out.

More than $30,000 has been raised for his legal defense fund, and donors have provided he and his family with a minivan and an apartment, according to http://www.timomiller.org, the Timothy Miller Family Support Network’s website.

“When Isabella was about 18 months old, Lisa Miller realized the emptiness of her lesbian lifestyle, and her mother’s instinct alerted her to the danger that lifestyle posed for her young daughter. She chose to leave that lifestyle, repented of her immoral ways, and began a new life,” according to the website.

Star calls Miller’s actions kidnapping. She doesn’t buy the idea of civil disobedience.

“My understanding is that civil disobedience is an act of defiance against a government. Janet Jenkins is not the government, she is a mother who is worried sick about her daughter.”

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Associated Press correspondent Filadelfo Aleman reported from Nicaragua.

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