International Child Abduction – Spain

By Velasco Lawyers

It is quite common to hear about separated parents living in different countries where one parent denies the return of a child after a temporary parental visit.

Spain protects parents who have child custody and who are residents in Spain through their national laws, international agreements and bilateral agreements between countries. In particular the Organic Law 9/2002, of the 10 December; The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction signed on the 25th October 1980; The European Council agreement related to judicial decisions for the custody of minors of the 20th May 1980 and the bilateral agreement between Morocco and Spain related to the enforcement of judicial decisions concerning the custody and the return of minors of the 30th May 1995. The latter was deemed a necessity due to the amount of legal cases regarding the return of children abducted by parents during visits to Spain or Morocco.

What is child abduction?
Spanish law is clear about what child abduction is, and it takes these cases extremely seriously:
The removal of a child from their place of residence without the consent of the parent with whom he usually lives or the people or institutions in whose care the child was entrusted.

The retention of a child is a serious breach of an established judicial or administrative decision.
The penalty can be from 2 to 4 years of imprisonment plus the loss of the right to parental authority (patria potestad) for 4 to 10 years.
If the abducting parent informs the other parent or the institution in charge of the child, of their exact location with the promise of immediate return, there will be no charges as long as the period of abduction is less than 24 hours.

International visitation rights
A parent who is a resident in Spain and who receives a request for visitation rights from the other parent in a different country has to legally comply with the request as long as it conforms to the divorce or separation agreement (convenio regulador). The situation can be a terrible dilemma for the parent with custody if they suspect that the other parent will not return the child. In this case a Spanish lawyer experienced in International Family Law should be consulted immediately.

Claiming the child back
For countries outside the international conventions cited above, once the child is abducted it might be difficult to legally force the authorities of the other country to return the child. For countries complying with the treaties above there is a legal route which must be followed to get the child back but the amount of time for the return can vary greatly. The UK, New Zealand and Australia for example will return the child very quickly.

In cases of abduction, time is of the essence. If the child is out of Spain for more than a year, the judge in the visiting country could stop the return process if the other parent can demonstrate that the child has integrated perfectly in their new environment.

If one of the parents suspects abduction it is important to immediately consult a Spanish lawyer, who is experienced in International Family Law, in order to preventively evaluate all options; even more importantly when abduction has already taken place, to be able to explore all possible legal ways for the safe return of the child.

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

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Child Abduction Prevention -U.S

Guarding Against International Parental Child Abduction

Source: U.S Department of State

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.

In this section of our Web site, learn about the measures you can take to prevent your child from being wrongfully taken to or wrongfully kept in another country.  In addition to the materials below, also see these important links:

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 (see country list).

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.

Two Parent Signature Law for a Passport

The United States does not have exit controls on its borders for holders of a valid passport.  This makes preventing a passport from being issued to your child without your consent very important.  Generally, if your child has a passport, it can be difficult to prevent the other parent from removing the child to another country without your permission.

U.S. law requires the signature of both parents, or the child’s legal guardians, prior to issuance of a U.S. passport to children under the age of 16.  To obtain a U.S. passport for a child under the age of 16, both parents (or the child’s legal guardians) must execute the child’s passport application and provide documentary evidence demonstrating that they are the parents or guardians.  If this cannot be done, the person executing the passport application must provide documentary evidence that he or she has sole custody of the child, has the consent of the other parent to the issuance of the passport, or is acting in place of the parents and has the consent of both parents (or of a parent/legal guardian with sole custody over the child to the issuance of the passport).

EXCEPTIONS: The law does provide two exceptions to this requirement: (1) for exigent circumstances, such as those involving the health or welfare of he child, or (2) when the Secretary of State determines that issuance of a passport is warranted by special family circumstances.

Read more: Passport Requirements for Minors

Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program

You may also ask that your child’s name be entered into the State Department’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP).  Entering your child into the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program will enable the Department to notify you or your attorney if an application for a U.S. passport for the child is received anywhere in the United States or at any U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. If you have a court order that either grants you sole custody, joint legal custody, or prohibits your child from traveling without your permission or the permission of the court, the Department may refuse to issue a new or renewal U.S. passport for your child. The Department may not, however, revoke a passport that has already been issued to the child. There is also no way to track the use of a passport once it has been issued, since there are no exit controls for people leaving the U.S. If your child already has a passport, you should take steps to ensure that it is kept from a potential abductor by asking the court or attorneys to hold it.


  1. The United States does not have exit controls.
  2. The Department of State may not revoke a passport that has been issued to a child, but you can ask a court to hold onto it.
  3. There is no way to track the use of a passport once it has been issued.
  4. Your child might also be a citizen of another country (dual nationality).  Even if he/she does not have a U.S. passport, your child may be able to travel on the other country’s passport.

The Privacy Act and Passports

Passport information is protected by the provisions of the Privacy Act (PL 93-579) passed by Congress in 1974. Information regarding a minor’s passport is available to either parent. Information regarding adults may be available to law enforcement officials or pursuant to a court order issued by the court of competent jurisdiction in accordance with (22 CFR 51.27). For further information regarding the issuance or denial of United States passports to minors involved in custody disputes, please contact Passport Services.

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

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Warning of child abduction to sharia law states

Source:The Irish Times, Dublin

FORMER MEP Mary Banotti has called on the Government to monitor the number of reported child abduction cases involving sharia law countries which have not signed international conventions on the issue.

Figures published by the Department of Justice last week showed that a record 141 transnational child abduction cases were dealt with by the authorities last year.

The department said 141 cases involving 183 children were received by the Central Authority for Child Abduction in 2008, an increase of 42 cases on 2007 and the highest annual total since the unit was established in 1991.

However, Ms Banotti, who is president of Irish Centre for Parentally Abducted Children, said it was very difficult to retrieve children who were abducted by one parent to a state that had not signed the Hague conventions on child abduction. Cases involving countries governed by sharia law were particularly difficult to resolve.

“I think there should be a record kept of all children removed to sharia law countries,” she said.

Ms Banotti pointed to a case in which an Irish woman, originally from a north African state, was reunited in January with her four children six years after her husband took them back to their country of origin without her consent. Because the African state had not signed the Hague conventions, the woman had no legal avenue to pursue in order to retrieve her children, who were aged between two and seven when they were taken in 2002.

She was eventually reunited with them in January after her husband was arrested by gardaí on his return to Ireland.

Ms Banotti said the latest child abduction figures corroborated her organisation’s view that the problem remained significant. The centre received reports of seven abductions in the past week.

A major shift in trends in recent years was that, whereas women until recently made up the vast majority of those reporting abduction, today at least half of reports came from men.

While the overwhelming majority of transnational abduction cases investigated here once involved the United States and the UK, recent immigration patterns are reflected in the variety of central and eastern European countries that have appeared on the department’s list in recent years.

In 2008, a total of 33 cases related to states that joined the EU since 2004, including Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania.

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

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Recovering Abducted Children in the EU


The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction created an international treaty and legal mechanism in order to find children that have been abducted. This is just one treaty or law that has been enacted in order to recover children that have been taken away from their loved ones. However, it is really important to make sure that every state has a means to deal with and track down children that have gone missing. Children get abducted for a number of reasons: •Intent to raise the child as their own
•A parent takes the child from the other parent’s care
•For ransom

Despite the seriousness of child abductions it is not publicized enough. This may in part be because the statistics are not very clear. Data collection by different organizations can differ drastically from the definition of “abducted child” to a motivation explanation. Consequently, comparing the numbers is not very helpful or simple. The need for a transnational database is evident in that it will help ascertain the significance of the missing children problem.
Fortunately, in 2007 the European Commission declared the telephone number “116000” to be the single telephone number in the EU to make pressing calls about 3missing children. By securing a single hotline number, hopefully the “116000” number will help this lack of communication that can occur between the EU countries.
Despite this effort to create a line of communication across European borders there is still not a child alert system that would create a network to look for children who may have been taken into a different country.
The United States has a number of different laws that focus on this topic exclusively by engaging in actively preventing crimes against children as well as, similar methods to handle situations in which children go missing. With the ease of crossing borders in Europe it becomes apparent that it can be difficult to work with countries that follow different procedures to help children and this creates a complicated setting to recover and protect children efficiently and safely.
Missing Children Europe is one organization that is tirelessly working to improve and enact legislation that will improve the mechanisms to help children across the European Union while simultaneously working to improve the quality and communication of existing means of handling missing children cases.

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

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Why are International Abductions within the Family Increasing?

By: Safekids
Statistics from international child abduction charity suggest that international child abductions within the family have increased by 87% since 1995. The reasons for this may be many, but it is believed that a variety of factors have made international travel and residence much easier for most people. Reasons for this increase likely include:
  • A rise in the number of parents who break up with each other, including through divorce.
  • A rise in the number of people marrying foreign nationals (meaning that these partners will become parents with origins and possibly residences in other countries).
  • Cheaper international travel options, which allows more parents to purchase passage for themselves and their children to other countries.
  • Greater familiarity with immigration laws, which means that more people are aware of where and how they can work in other countries, particularly those in the European Union.

How Can Parents Guard their Children Against an International Abduction?

There are many things that a guardian parent can do to prevent their ex-partner from taking their children across international boundaries. Guardian parents can:

  • Obtain a court order as to the custody or residence of their children. If the child ordinarily resides in a specific country or was abducted from that country, a court order is necessary for it to be considered an abduction.
  • Prevent passports from being issued for their children. You will likely need an order of the court as well as this request in writing.
  • Tell the police of your suspicions.
  • Request a Port Warning or Port Alert in urgent/imminent circumstances. Only the police are able to issue such an alert, and only when there is good reason to believe that the child may be taken out of the country.
  • Contact a solicitor  to discuss their personal situation and transmit this information to the partner they believe may be thinking of abducting their children.

Child abduction within the family is a crime much like any other type of child abduction. If you fear that your child may be abducted by another family member, take necessary precautions to keep him/her safe, and if the worst does happen report the abduction immediately. Don’t hesitate, or you may regret the wait later.

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

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