Court orders return of children abducted from father in Norway


June 10, 2011 by Rosalind English, UK Human Rights Blog

In the matter of E (Children) [2011] UKSC – read judgment 

The Supreme Court has ruled that two girls, aged seven and four respectively, be returned with their mother to Norway, after she had removed them without the father’s consent. The decision was made largely under the Hague Convention on the Rights of the Child which gives more specific direction to the courts in abduction cases than the European Convention on Human Rights, although, as the Supreme Court observed, a little more reassurance that the necessary safeguards can be enforced in the destination country would make it easier for the courts in the requesting country to make orders protecting the interests of the child.

The following summary is based on the UK Supreme Court’s press release. The numerals in bold refer to paragraph numbers in the judgment.

The case

The children had lived all of their lives in Norway until September last year when their mother brought them to England with a view to staying here permanently. The father was not asked and did not consent to their removal from Norway. The mother had an older daughter, Tyler, who is nearly 17 and also lived with the family in Norway, but left Norway for England shortly before her mother.

The father applied to the Norwegian central authority under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction 1980 for the children to be returned to Norway. Article 12 of the Hague Convention requires a requested state to return a child forthwith to her country of habitual residence if she has been wrongfully removed in breach of rights of custody. But Article 13 provides three exceptions, one of which is that the child should not be returned if

there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation

The mother, with Tyler’s support, argued that this exception applies. She made allegations against the father which, if true, amount to a classic case of serious psychological abuse. She recounted incidents of physical violence towards other people, property and the ill-treatment of the family pets. There was also psychiatric evidence that the mother is suffering from a mental disorder which would deteriorate if she had to return with the children to Norway.

Although the father denied some of these allegations, he did admit to bouts of anger, and to killing two of the family pets, a cat and a rabbit. But he undertook to vacate the family home and not go within 500 metres of it; and he said would pay household costs and provide money for child support. He also promised that he would not remove the children from the mother’s care.

The judgment

The Supreme Court, like the Family Court and the Court of Appeal before it, unanimously dismissed the mother’s appeal.

Reasons for the judgment

The case law of the European Court of Human Rights indicates that the right to respect for family life in article 8 of the European Convention must be interpreted in the light of the Hague Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The best interests of children have two aspects:

1) to be reunited with their parents as soon as possible so that one parent does not gain an unfair advantage over the other through the passage of time; and

2) to be brought up in a “sound environment” in which they are not at risk of harm[52].

The President of the Strasbourg court has recently acknowledged extra-judicially that

the logic of the Hague Convention is that a child who has been abducted should be returned to the jurisdiction best-placed to protect his interests and welfare, and it is only there that his situation should be reviewed in full [25].

Violence and abuse between parents may constitute a grave risk to the children. But where there are disputed allegations which can neither be tried nor objectively verified, the focus of the inquiry is bound to be on the sufficiency of any protective measures which can be put in place to reduce the risk.

In this case, the trial judge was satisfied that medical treatment would be available for the mother and that there were legal remedies to protect the children should they be needed. It is not the task of an appellate court to disagree with the trial judge’s assessment [49].

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It’s parental kidnapping season


Holiday season signals an increase in cases of child abduction

Incidents of international parental child abduction – where a child is taken overseas without the other parent’s consent or contrary to a court order – are expected to peak over the summer, according to the FCO’s Child Abduction Section.

In many cases, parents pretend they are going on holiday with their child to their country of origin and then fail to return.

Worryingly, it is also common for parents not to realise that they have committed a child abduction offence. Research recently commissioned by the FCO* showed that a third of people didn’t know that if you take your child abroad without the permission of the other parent, this may be considered abduction under UK law.

“International parental child abduction, whether intentional or not, can cause huge distress to families.

“If a parent wishes to take their child to live in a new country they will normally need either the permission of the other parent or the British courts. Cases of parental child abduction increase in the summer holiday period. We urge parents who are worried to get specialist legal advice and contact our Child Abduction Section and the charity Reunite which can provide them with information to try to prevent an abduction from happening in the first place, or to try to resolve disputes if a child has already been taken overseas.

“We also see cases where British nationals simply return to the UK with their child after their relationship breaks down whilst living abroad – this is still likely to be considered abduction. A parent will normally require the consent of the other parent and possibly permission from the courts of the country concerned. It is important that a parent obtains legal advice before taking any action.”

If you are worried that your child may be abducted overseas you should:

  • Seek advice from a  family lawyer and  request a Prohibited Steps Order (or equivalent depending on where you  live in the UK) prohibiting your child from being taken out of the UK
  • In the event of an imminent abduction (in the next 24-48 hours), contact the police who may be able to issue an All Ports Alert to try to prevent a child from leaving the UK.  The police in England and Wales do not need a court order before instituting a port alert.  Police in Scotland do need a court order.
  • Ensure that you keep their child’s passport in a safe place and contact the Identity and Passport Service (and relevant local embassy if your child has dual nationality) to request that another passport is not issued without your permission
  • Contact the Child Abduction Section at the Foreign Office on 0207 008 0878
  • Contact the Reunite International Child Abduction Centre on 0116 2556 234
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The Impact of Parental Child Abduction


An abducting parent views the child’s needs as secondary to the parental agenda which is to provoke, agitate, control, attack or psychologically torture the other parent.

It is generally accepted that children are emotionally impacted by divorce. Children of troubled abductor parents bear an even greater burden. “The needs of the troubled parent override the developmental needs of the child, with the result that the child becomes psychologically depleted and their own emotional and social progress is crippled”

 

In custody disputes and abductions, the extended support systems of the parents can become part of the dispute scenario, — leading to a type of “tribal warfare” (Johnston & Campbell, 1988). Believing primarily one side of the abduction story, — family, friends, and professionals may lose their objectivity. As a result, protective concerns expressed by the abandoned parent may be viewed as undue criticism, interference, and histrionics. Thus, the abandoned parent may be ineffectual in relieving the trauma imposed on an innocent child by the parental abduction.

Generally the abductor does not even speak of the abandoned parent and waits patiently for time to erase probing questions, like “When can we see mom (dad) again?”. “These children become hostages … it remains beyond their comprehension that a parent who really cares and loves them cannot discover their whereabouts” (Clawar & Rivlin, p. 115).

Impact of Parental Child Abduction

Children who have been psychologically violated and maltreated through the act of abduction, are more likely to exhibit a variety of psychological and social handicaps. These handicaps make them vulnerable to detrimental outside influences (Rand, 1997). Huntington (1982) lists some of the deleterious effects of parental child abduction on the child victim:

  1. Depression;
  2. Loss of community;
  3. Loss of stability, security, and trust;
  4. Excessive fearfulness, even of ordinary occurrences;
  5. Loneliness;
  6. Anger;
  7. Helplessness;
  8. Disruption in identity formation; and
  9. Fear of abandonment.

Many of these untoward effects can be subsumed under the problems relevant to Reactive Attachment Disorder, the diagnostic categories in the following section, and the sections on fear, of abandonment, learned helplessness, and guilt, that follow.

Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Attachment is the deep and enduring connection established between a child and caregiver in the first few years of life. It profoundly influences every component of the human condition, — mind, body, emotions, relationships, and values. Children lacking secure attachments with caregivers often become angry, oppositional, antisocial, and may grow up to be parents who are incapable of establishing this crucial foundation with their own children (Levy & Orlans, 1999).

Children who lack permanence in their lives often develop a “one-day-at-a-time” perspective of life, which effects appropriate development of the cognitive-behavioral chain — thoughts, feelings, actions, choices, and outcomes. “They think, ‘I’ve been moved so many times, I’ll just be moved again. So why should I care?'” (ACE, 1999).

Stringer (1999) and other experts on attachment disorder concur that the highest risk occurs during the first few years of life. This disorder is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as Reactive Attachment Disorder. According to Stringer, common causes of attachment problems are:

  1. Sudden or traumatic separation from primary caretaker
    (through death, illness hospitalization of caretaker, or removal of child);
  2. Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse;
  3. Neglect (of physical or emotional needs);
  4. Frequent moves and/or placements;
  5. Inconsistent or inadequate care at home or in day care
    (care must include holding, talking, nurturing, as well as meeting basic physical needs); and
  6. Chronic depression of primary caretaker.

It is evident that these causality factors would place at high risk children who are subjected to similar conditions in the circumstances of parental kidnapping.

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International child abductions tear families apart


Source: Katie Worth – The Sfexaminer

Dusk had long since fallen over the jungles of northwestern Honduras, but
Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/international-child-abductions-tear-families-apart#ixzz1MAXmMS3z
Lt. Carlos Sanchez could still make out the three children playing in the dirty yard of the bare hut his team had surrounded.

Those children, ages 3, 6 and 8, were his quarry. Sanchez, an investigator from the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, had been searching for them for the better part of a year. The children had been abducted from San Francisco by their father in June 2008, and he had carefully hidden them. It took an exhaustive investigation to follow their trail here. Though his team was close, Sanchez knew they had to be careful because smuggling and other crime made this border village dangerous.

The children were victims of what the U.S. Department of State believes is a growing phenomenon: international child abduction. According to State Department statistics, there are about 3,000 children currently missing who have been abducted by a parent and ensconced out of the U.S. At least 400 of those missing children are from California — about 50 from the Bay Area.

The issue of international child abduction briefly received widespread attention last Christmas when a New Jersey father successfully retrieved his 9-year-old son from Brazil, where his mother had taken him for a visit and never returned. After her death, the boy’s stepfather refused to return him to the U.S. until courts forced him to.

The international press treated the Brazil case as an anomaly. In fact, the number of open international kidnapping cases have doubled in about a decade: In 1998, there were about 1,000 open cases, according to nonprofit Committee for Missing Children. Today, there are about 2,000 open cases, State Department spokesman Ryan Palsrok said.

In part because of the sharp increase, State Department officials visited San Francisco last month and met with many of the families awaiting their children’s return, Palsrok said.

Rising numbers are tied to the increasing ease and affordability of international travel. The poor economy may also encourage more kidnappings, with unemployed parents deciding to return to their home countries, Palsrok said.

The abductions are complicated, because both parents often feel they are right in their actions. Because the abductions are international, multiple countries’ legal systems are often involved, as well as an international body empowered by a 1980 Hague Conference treaty.

According to the treaty, an abducted child must be returned to his or her “country of habitual residence,” whose courts will determine the best outcome for the child.

In the Honduran case Sanchez was working last spring, the children’s mother had sole custody of her children, but the father had visiting rights. On June 13, 2008, the father picked up the children for a scheduled visit and told them he was taking them to Disneyland. When the mother did not hear from them, she tried and failed to contact the father. She found his apartment empty. She suspected he would take the children to Honduras, where he had family.

The City’s District Attorney’s Office became involved because in California, the State Department asks those offices to take a lead in finding internationally abducted children.

The mother was beside herself with anxiety. In a court document a year later, she wrote that her sole comfort was their scent still stuck on their clothes, which she sniffed every day, “until they smelled no more.”

Investigators learned the father drove to Texas in a rented car, put the children in the back of a truck and drove them through Mexico and into Honduras. He stayed with them for several weeks, but eventually left them with his family in a village outside the city of San Pedro Sula.

When the investigation pinpointed them, Sanchez and a recovery team flew down. After securing the perimeter with local police, Sanchez and his team approached the hut and talked to the children’s grandmother. He explained the children were going to come with him and be returned to their mother.

The children had been sleeping on old mattresses, had been bitten by bats and mosquitoes and were infected with lice. They did not want to leave, in part because they had been told that their mother didn’t want them anymore, and that their father would go to jail if they ever left with authorities.

The District Attorney’s Office requested the family not be identified.

“It’s always really dramatic for children, because they’re usually being ripped from someone they love,” Sanchez said. “We told them they were leaving and they were crying.”

But a day later in the U.S., comforted, debriefed and prepared for the reunification, they rushed into their mother’s arms.

“It was like day and night,” he said. “It’s great to see a reunification. Unless you’re dead, you can’t go without crying.”

Mexico abduction yields happy ending

The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office sees about two child custody cases a month, but in most of them, both parents are within the county, and one of them is keeping the child a little longer than they should.

Sometimes, however, Inspector Ivan Grosshauser responds to cases where a child has been taken out of the country without the permission of the other parent or the courts.

In one case, he recalled, a couple with a 4-year-old son split up, and the father, “kind of a control guy,” asked for sole custody. When San Mateo County’s family court granted dual custody, the father took the child to Mexico.

The mother was reluctant to approach law enforcement because she was not a U.S. citizen, but finally did so when the father told her he would not allow her to speak to her son unless she sent him money. The situation deteriorated quickly, Grosshauser said.

“At some point he threatened the mother that if she came to get the child, he would kill the child,” he said.

A break came when the father left the child briefly with the mother’s relatives, and they contacted her. Grosshauser flew to Mexico City. The family turned over the child, who was excited to return to his mother.

“It was a very long day — we flew back from Mexico City to Tijuana so I could walk him over the border, and then got on another flight in San Diego,” he said.

“But after that long day, at 10:30 at night, I pulled up to the meeting place, and the mother was there, and I opened the car door and the little boy steps out, and there was that absolute spontaneous yelp of a mother who never thought she’d see her kid again,” Grosshauser said. “It was very, very satisfying for me.”

Guarding against international parental child kidnapping

– A well-written custody decree: This can be an important line of defense against international parental child abductions. The decree can include a statement that explicitly prohibits your child from traveling abroad without your permission or that of the court. If the other parent has significant ties to a foreign country, the court can require that parent to post a bond that would be forfeited if they leave with the child.

– Passport Issuance Alert Program: You may ask that the State Department alert you if an application for a U.S. passport for the child is received. Because it is much easier to travel out of the country with a child if the child has a passport, preventing one from being issued can deter international travel.

– Quickly alert the State Department: If the child is in the process of being abducted but is not yet abroad, contact the department’s Office of Children’s Issues. The office can work with law enforcement in the U.S. and in other countries to try to stop the departure of children being abducted from the U.S.

The Office of Children’s Issues can be reached at (202) 736-9090 during working hours, and (888) 407-4747 evenings, holidays and weekends. For additional details on missing children, visit www.missingkids.com. If you have information on a missing child, call (800) 843-5678

Source: U.S. Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues

Unresolved cases

2,000: Open cases of international parental abductions known by the U.S. Department of State

3,000: Children involved in these cases

400: Children taken from California

50: Children taken from the Bay Area

50: Percent increase in cases reported to the State Department in the last two years

62: Countries on six continents where children from California have been taken

Source: U.S. Department of State
Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Services

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Sharp rise in international parental kidnapping cases


By: Emily Babay

One year ago, Douglass Berg, of Reston, said goodbye to his son and daughter before they boarded a flight with his ex-wife on what was supposed to be a three-week visit to her native Japan. He has not seen the children since.


Stefanie Gardner, a native of Germany, traveled to that country with the two young sons she had been raising in Northern Virginia with her estranged husband, Gregory. Since then, she has refused to allow them to return. He accused her of kidnapping the boys, and a warrant for her arrest was issued in the United States. But a German court has awarded her sole custody.

For an increasing number of parents in the Washington area, child-bearing relationships with a foreign partner are deteriorating into charges of child abductions, and in many cases legal struggles in which the deck is stacked against Americans fighting the laws of another country.

Nationwide, the number of cases is rising dramatically. There were 1,135 international child abductions in fiscal 2009, according to State Department statistics. That’s nearly double the 642 cases reported in 2006.

Foreign travel, military operations and immigration have spurred an increase in international relationships, experts say. And an international city such as Washington, full of embassy personnel and staffers for global companies, is fertile ground for such abductions. But parents of different nationalities raising children together can lead to “cultural differences that people may not be willing to compromise on,” said Donna Linder, executive director of the nonprofit Child Find of America.

Berg told The Washington Examiner that his ex-wife “felt like I was invading her turf” by sharing custody of Gunnar, now age 10, and Kianna, 9, after their divorce. She thought child care was a mom’s responsibility.

“That may be her culture, but that’s certainly not mine,” he said.

Gardner’s attorneys say tensions grew between Gardner and her husband, and he consented to her taking the children to Germany in 2004.

German court documents show that, in 2005, she was awarded custody of Alec, now age 8, and Dominic, now 7. In 2006, a federal warrant was issued for Gardner’s arrest. Her attorneys are trying to get the charge dropped. One of them, Steven Gremminger, said they’ve given authorities information from German courts and the prosecutor “has indicated that she’s having the FBI review that.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria and the FBI declined to comment.

“There’s nothing easy” about international abduction cases, said Stefanie Eye, a State Department division chief for abductions. “You’re dealing with the laws of two or more sovereign nations.” Resolutions are often hard to find.

In 1994, the ex-husband of Catherine Meyer — who would later marry British ambassador Christopher Meyer — abducted her sons to Germany. While in D.C., Catherine Meyer became an advocate on parental abduction issues. Over nine years, she saw her children for just a few hours. The case was only resolved when the boys became adults and free to reunite with her.

That’s the moment Berg is waiting for, he said. He has created Web sites he hopes Gunnar and Kianna will find so “they realize that their father loves them very much and realize I was trying to get ahold of them.”

No one keeps statistics on how often criminal prosecutions are pursued in such cases. But even that doesn’t guarantee a child’s return. The FBI doesn’t have jurisdiction overseas, so it must rely on foreign authorities. Many cases reach an impasse, where children remain with the parent who has them. Often, no one can force an abducting parent to give up a child or return home, said Preston Findlay, a lawyer with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

For the parents on both sides, it’s a frustrating wait.

Gardner is “not a kidnapper, she’s a mom, and a good mom,” Gremminger said. And Berg said he continues to lose sleep wondering if he’ll see his children again. “It’s all you can think about,” he said.

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Services

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Parental Abduction – The Philippines


Parental child abduction is not a crime under Philippine law.

Custody disputes are considered civil legal matters that must be resolved between the concerned parties or through the courts in the Philippines. Philippine authorities advise the American Embassy that generally the Philippine courts will give custody of children under the age of seven to the mother, provided there is no evidence that would indicate that the mother is unfit to raise the child. Although there is no treaty in force between the United States and the Philippines on enforcement of judgments, the Philippine courts will also take into consideration child custody decrees issued by foreign courts in deciding disputes regarding children residing in the Philippines.

General Information: The Philippines is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between the Philippines and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. Therefore, there is no treaty remedy by which the left behind parent would be able to pursue recovery of the child/ren should they be abducted to or wrongfully retained in the Philippines. Once in the Philippines, the child/ren would be completely subject to Philippine law for all matters including custody.

Child Abduction Recovery Services

Note: If your child is abducted to The Philippines, you will have very small chances to win the legal dispute there. The Philippines never returns abducted children. The only way is to re-kidnap the child or to make a deal with your ex spouse. It`s all about money in The Philippines.

 

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Six warning signs of possible child abduction


The incidence of international child abductions is greater than official figures reveal.

Some of the warning signs of impending abduction include:

  1. The other parent is planning a trip out of the country with your child;
  2. Your ex-spouse is coming from overseas, and you are worried they plan to abduct your child;
  3. Your ex-spouse wants you to co-sign your child’s passport without good reason;
  4. Your  child is a citizen of a country which allows one parent alone to apply for the child’s passport and you have a fear of child abduction;
  5. The other parent has a home, a family or other connections overseas and you are concerned that there is no reason for them to stay in your country;
  6. The other parent has no substantial property or employment in your country, and nothing keeping them here.

In addition, you should obtain urgent legal advice if:

  1. The other parent has already left the country with your child;
  2. You are not sure if they plan to return or if you believe they will not return;
  3. There is a link to overseas family or property;
  4. There is no other significant link to your country.

If any of the above applies to you, you should make an urgent appointment to see a family lawyer for further advice specific to your situation.

How to search for an abducted child

What steps can you take if you want to know the location of a child who you believe has been abducted? Under the Family Law Act, certain people can apply for a location order in relation to a child. A location order is an order made by a court that requires a person to provide information about a child’s location to the court.

The following people can apply for a location order: (Australia)

  • a person who a child is to live with in accordance with a parenting order;
  • a person who a child is to spend time with in accordance with a parenting order;
  • a person who a child is to communicate with under a parenting order;
  • a person who has parental responsibility for a child under a parenting order;
  • a grandparent of a child;
  • any other person concerned with the care, welfare or development of a child;
  • For the purposes of the Child Protection Convention, a person (including the Commonwealth Central Authority) may apply to a court for a location order.

If you suspect a child is about to be abducted and taken out of the country you need to act quickly.

Source: Armstrong Legal

 

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Services

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International Parental Child Abduction – Re-Kidnap / Re-Abduction


This is what The U.S Department of State recommend parents of abducted children. We disagree. Recover your child as quick as possible, before they get alienated or worse.

Source: U.S Department of State

We strongly discourage taking desperate and possibly illegal measures to return your child to the United States.  Attempts to re-abduct your child back into the United States may:

  • Endanger your child and others;
  • Prejudice any future judicial efforts you might wish to make in that country to stabilize the situation; and
  • Result in your arrest and imprisonment in that country — If you are arrested, the foreign court will not necessarily give weight to the fact that you might have custody of your child in the United States, nor will the United States Embassy be able to secure your release.

If you do succeed in leaving the foreign country with your child, you and anyone who assisted you may be the target of arrest warrants and extradition requests in the U.S. or any other country where you are found.

Finally, there is no guarantee that the chain of abductions would end with the one committed by you.  A parent who has re-abducted a child may have to go to extraordinary lengths to conceal his or her whereabouts, living in permanent fear that the child may be re-abducted again.

IMPORTANT NOTE: United States Consular officers cannot take possession of a child abducted by a parent or aid parents attempting to act in violation of the laws of a foreign country. Consular officers must act in accordance with the laws of the country to which they are assigned.

Emotional Consequences for Your Child:

If you are contemplating such desperate measures, we advise you to consider the emotional trauma inflicted on a child who is a victim of abduction and re-abduction. We discourage re-abduction not only because it is illegal, but also because of possible psychological harm to the child.

ABP World Group Ltd. can help you if your children are abducted or kidnapped. Our skilled operators can locate and recover your child from any country or region in the world.

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Services

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Abducted Children – We can bring them back


ABP International Child Recovery Service

The goal of Abp World Group international child recovery services is to locate, negotiate and recover your missing child.

We can dispatch personnel to most locations in the world; we specialize in locating missing children up to ages 18.

Areas of expertise: Parental abduction, Missing children, Kidnappings,
Runaway children and Counselling.

Unfortunately in this day and time parental kidnapping happens and we are here to help you trough this difficult period.
We are aware parental child abduction can be difficult to resolve, but we use professional operatives with the skills and expertise to help find a resolution.

One key to Abp World Group`s successful recovery and re-unification of your loved one is to use all necessary means available

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Services

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