Irish mother faces International battle


Source: Strabane Chronicle

A STRABANE woman locked in a bitter international custody battle says she fears she may never see her son again.

Tracey McCay’s incredible story came to a head on Christmas Eve when a Belfast Court ordered her to hand her six-year-old son Sean over to her husband.
Husband David has since returned to their adopted home of Singapore with Sean, leaving Tracey practically penniless and homeless.
The 37-year-old told the Strabane Chronicle this week that she now fears she may never see her son again.
Tracey says her nightmare began ten weeks ago while she and her accountant husband David were holidaying in Indonesia.
Following a bust-up on the island of Batam, Tracey claims she awoke to find her husband had fled with her son, taking with him her passport and travel documents.

After contacting the immigration authorities, Tracey eventually managed to get back to Singapore where she contacted her solicitor.
Because she has only lived in Asia since May and her Visa rights depend heavily on her husband’s job, she was advised to return to Northern Ireland and fight for custody here.
On December 22 the estranged couple came face to face for a custody hearing in Belfast.
Tracey won her battle only to have it over-turned on appeal two days later.
On Christmas Eve she broke down in tears in court as Sean was taken from her and handed over to her husband. The father and son have since returned to Singapore.
Speaking from a women’s refuge in Belfast, Tracey appealed for help from anyone with knowledge of international law.

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Police seek Holland-area mother, Wendi Carpenter, on parental kidnapping charge


By Staff reports
Holland police are looking for a local woman they say left the state with her two children after she failed to show up on Tuesday for a scheduled transfer of the children to their father.
Wendi Carpenter had the two young children for visitation during the summer but had to transfer the children to their father because of a court order, according to a news release from Holland police. After she didn’t show up to the Holland Department of Public Safety for the transfer, police started an investigation.Based on that investigation, police now believe Carpenter has fled the state with the two children, Luke Carpenter and Cambria Carpenter. Wendi Carpenter is wanted on a warrant for custodial interference authorized by the Ottawa County Prosecutor.She is listed as a practicing psychologist with two different nonprofit counseling groups, Healing Waters and Lakeshore Pure Freedom, both in Zeeland. Police did not release the father’s name.

The mother and children were last known to be in Holland, in the 300 block of Pine Avenue,  around 8 a.m. on Tuesday, police said. The mother and children left in her vehicle, a 2006 Toyota Highlander, police said, but that vehicle has since been located in western Missouri. They might have left that area in a dark-colored SUV.

The Holland Department of Public Safety is asking anyone with information as to the possible location of the mother or children to call the Holland Department of Public Safety Detective Bureau at (616) 355-1150 or Silent Observer at (888) 88-SILENT.

Published by: ABP World Group  Executive Protection
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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.

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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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Hungary accused of failing to enforce Hague Convention orders


Hungary accused of failing to enforce Hague Convention orders, writes Carol Coulter

WHEN FAMILY disputes arise, or sometimes when there is a dispute between parents and state child care authorities, it occasionally happens that a parent flees the jurisdiction with the child.

This eventuality is covered by The Hague Convention on Child Abduction, to which most countries outside the Islamic world are signatories.

The Irish authorities processed 233 cases relating to international child abduction in 2010, of which 140 were new applications.

Many were subsequently either withdrawn or settled by consent. In 25 cases the children were ordered to be returned to the state from which they had been abducted.

Usually when a child has been wrongfully removed from his or her normal place of residence by a parent and a court orders his or her return, the child is produced and the return takes place in an orderly manner. If this does not happen, the Garda have the power to arrest the parent concerned and secure the child’s return.

However, it may not happen so smoothly in all jurisdictions. An Irish father, Dr Leslie Shaw, is still seeking the return of his daughter Fiona from Hungary more than three years after she was removed from the family home in France by her mother, despite the fact that the Hungarian courts have ordered the return of the child.

He is now seeking the intervention of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and of the European Commission to have the orders seeking Fiona’s return enforced.

He is also seeking to draw international attention to what he claims is the flouting by Hungary of international law.

His lawyer, Laurent Hinkler, has written to the parliamentary members of the Council of Europe, the parent body of the ECHR, drawing their attention to the “violation of the law of the European Union, of private international law and the European Convention on Human Rights”.

Fiona was abducted in December 2007 by her mother Krisztina Orosz and her father immediately took proceedings in Pest, Hungary, seeking her return under The Hague Convention. The court granted his application. This decision was unsuccessfully appealed by Ms Orosz, ultimately to the Hungarian Supreme Court, which confirmed the order in November 2008.

Meanwhile, the French courts had established Fiona’s habitual residence as that of her father in France and granted him sole parental authority in April 2008. It also authorised him to exercise his parental rights in Hungary.

In March 2009 the French courts issued a European Arrest Warrant for Ms Orosz to face child abduction charges. She was arrested on July 27th, 2009, and brought to the High Court in Budapest. However, Dr Shaw’s legal representatives were not informed and she was immediately released and then went into hiding with their daughter.

The French magistrate then issued an international letter rogatory, a request for mutual legal assistance, outlining 14 specific measures sought by the French authorities to obtain the return of the child. A representative of the French prosecutorial service went to Hungary seeking to have them implemented.

According to Mr Hinkler, this initiative was unsuccessful because the Hungarian authorities refused to execute 13 of the 14 points requested. A second European Arrest Warrant and a further international letter rogatory issued in July 2010 likewise remained without effect, he stated.

“These manifest and deliberate failings of the Hungarian authorities resulted in Fiona and her mother going into and remaining in hiding since July 2009. Furthermore, the child has not attended school since October 2008,” he said in his letter to the Council of Europe.

“The refusal of Hungary to respect the statutory objective of the Council of Europe (article 1(a) ‘to achieve a greater unity between its members’) by recognizing the decisions of the French courts is extremely perilous for Fiona, whose health, safety and education are gravely compromised.”

In response to a number of questions from The Irish Times, a spokesman for the Hungarian ministry of public administration and justice said: “On the basis of a letter rogatory issued by the High Court of Paris, further legal proceedings were enacted against Krisztina Orosz on charges of child abduction between February 2010 and September 2010. Under the supervision of the prosecution service, the Hungarian police took all possible action within its competency to ensure enforcement.”

Referring to its refusal to execute the European Arrest Warrant, it said that at the time the Hungarian authorities were also bringing a prosecution against Ms Orosz on the same charges, and this meant it could refuse the request.

The case illustrates the fact that the smooth functioning of The Hague Convention requires wholehearted commitment to the mutual enforcement of orders on the part of contracting states.

Even if the law and the culture relating to child welfare issues vary from country to country, as they do, the essence of the convention is that the child’s place of habitual residence is where that welfare should be decided, in accordance with that state’s laws.

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Ireland: Slight fall in child abduction cases


By: JAMIE SMYTH, Irishtimes.com

Irish authorities received 136 new cases of child abduction in 2009, a slight drop on the number of cases notified a year earlier.

In 75 of these cases a child or children were taken from the Republic against the wishes of a parent or guardian. The remaining 61 cases involve a child or children brought into the State by a parent or guardian, who may not have the legal right to custody.

Some 183 children are caught up in these abduction cases, which have been referred to the Central Authority for Child Abduction within the Department of Justice.

New figures released by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern today show 53 cases involve children being abducted from or to England and Wales. Poland (16), Northern Ireland (9) and Latvia (8) are the other countries with a large number of abduction cases.

The Central Authority for Child Abduction also carried over 86 abduction cases from 2008, which had not been dealt with. This meant it processed 222 cases last year, which were dealt with under various international legal conventions aimed at returning children who have been removed from one state to another without consent.

Half of the 222 cases dealt with children brought to the Republic. In seven cases the High Court ordered the return of the children to the country from where they were taken. In five cases the High Court refused the return of the children and in 16 cases the children were voluntarily returned or the parties reached an agreement.

There were 52 cases awaiting resolution at the end of 2009.

In 10 of the 111 outgoing cases, where children were taken from Ireland without consent, foreign courts ordered their return. In three cases the foreign court refused the return of the child and in six cases the children were either voluntarily returned or an agreement was reached. At the end of 2009 some 39 cases were still awaiting resolution.

More than half of the 222 applications dealt by the Central Authority for Child Abduction in 2009 were made under the Hague Convention, which is designed to ensure the immediate return of children who have been removed from one contracting state to another. This usually occurs when a parent defies the wishes of the other parent.

The convention is based on the principle that the custody of a child should be decided by courts in the state in which the child habitually resides.

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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