Texas: Expert says parental child abductions are on the rise


September 27, 2012

Source: University of Houston

Attorney Pamela Brown discusses pursuing justice across international borders

 

Pamela Brown, director of the Bi-National Family Violence Project at Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, told law students that international parental kidnapping cases have become more common in recent years during a noon-hour gathering today at the University of Houston Law Center. Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid is a non-profit organization that provides free legal advice and representation to low-income residents in southwest Texas.

“Abduction rates are increasing in part due to globalization,” Brown said during the talk hosted by the Immigration and Human Rights Law Society. “The relationships of families do not end at international borders. We do not have an exit control nor would we want one. We are an international society.”

Brown noted that international parental abduction has increase by 65 percent in the United States from 2005 to 2009.  In addition, nearly one third of the children in the United States abducted by a parent end up in Mexico.

“Hundreds of Texas children are abducted by a parent every year and taken to Mexico,” Brown said. “Most of the left-behind parents don’t know where to go for help and do not have access to legal help.”

According to Brown, there are two legal frameworks for handling such cases: Internal custody litigation and the Hague Abduction Convention. Under the Hague Abduction Convention, an international treaty concluded in 1980, parents can petition for the return of their children through the civil courts. Mexico and the United States have signed the treaty and each has a government office specifically to deal with these cases.

Brown handles roughly 12 international parental kidnapping cases a year and has helped recover more than 50 children since 2001. She also runs training programs for law enforcement, social workers and lawyers across the state to prepare them for handling such issues.

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What Qualifies as Parental Kidnapping / Abduction ?


Source: Houston Divorce Blog

While parental kidnapping laws vary from state to state, two main factors determine whether a parent’s act qualifies as parental kidnapping:

  1. The status of child custody
  2. A parent’s motives in taking a child away from the other parent

Child custody status

Texas law criminalizes anyone (including a parent) who takes a child knowing that he or she is violating a child custody order. If you are the parent with custody over your child, the child’s other parent cannot do anything that violates the terms of your custody order. Also a parent may not move a child out of the judicial district area if he or she knows that a custody case is currently pending without seeking the permission of the court. Finally, Texas law makes it illegal for non-custodial parents to entice or persuade their children to leave the custodial parent or anyone else acting in that capacity.

For parents who would legitimately like to move, they have to petition the court with jurisdiction over the child custody case. This petition gives the non-custodial parent a chance to oppose the move. While the petition is pending, an act of the non-custodial parent to take the child away to avoid the move would be parental kidnapping.

The motives of a parent taking a child

If no child custody order is in place, the law generally assumes that both parents have equal rights to care for and spend time with their children. Brief trips and vacations with the child – even out of state – can be lawful assuming that the parent taking the child did so in good faith. Parents may not, however, take a child to hide him or her from the other parent or to terrorize the other parent. Many states, including Texas, criminalize this type of intent where one parent maliciously uses the child against the other parent.

Have you been involved in a parental kidnapping case? How were the courts able to help secure the return of your child?

John K. Grubb & Associates, P.C. – Houston divorce lawyers

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