INTERNATIONAL MARRIAGE: Changing Japan as a safe haven for parental abductions


June 10, 2012

Source: Asahi.com

In February, 61-year-old Masahiro Yoshida was arrested for “abducting” his 7-year-old daughter from her elementary school in Ehime Prefecture the month before.

It marked the second time that Yoshida, a former professional jazz drummer, was driven to desperation and snatched his daughter, since his ex-wife has parental custody over his daughter, and he is not allowed to have any contact with her.

In Japan, courts do not recognize shared custody, and mothers retain custody in about 90 percent of court-mediated divorces involving minors.

In response to mounting criticism that Japan is a safe haven for parental abductions, the government finally submitted a bill to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which provides for the return of unlawfully abducted children.

The legislation is unlikely to pass in the current Diet session, as deliberations of controversial bills to hike the consumption tax are taking center stage. But if enacted, the convention, which has 87 signatory countries, will mandate that Japan return children whom its nationals took from other countries in a divorce, unless it harms the child’s welfare.

The public’s perception in Japan is that such post-divorce disputes are taking place only between Japanese mothers and fathers from Western countries. But many Japanese parents now claim that the justice system here is equally tormenting those who lost custody over their children following a divorce.

The case involving Yoshida has much in common with the well-publicized arrest of an American man in 2009 after attempting to abduct his son and daughter and flee to the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka.

According to Yoshida’s mother, Michiko, an 87-year-old former liquor store operator in Yokohama, it was her daughter-in-law who “abducted” her grandchild five years ago in an attempt to gain parental custody.

Michiko’s son is currently on trial at the Matsuyama District Court.

As Masahiro is likely to be given a prison sentence this time, Michiko said there must be fundamental flaws in the country’s justice system, which made her son a “criminal for just wanting to see his daughter.”

IS “GAIATSU” LAST RESORT?

In a nearly identical case, former family court judge Masanori Watanabe, 53, was arrested for abducting his daughter, then an elementary school third-grader, from a train station in Fukuoka in October 2005.

Watanabe, then a Yokohama-based lawyer, was subsequently given a suspended three-year prison sentence, dismissed from the bar association and cannot practice law.

“I certainly knew the consequences, but I thought it was my last opportunity to persuade her to come back to me when she becomes old enough to make her own judgments,” Watanabe said.

While waging court battles to gain custody of or visitation rights to their children, Yoshida and Watanabe campaigned for the Hague Convention, which they thought would help their causes.

“The convention means Japan’s last chance to review its cruel tradition to completely dismiss one parent’s right over children after divorce,” Watanabe said. “It is also my last resort to clear my name as a kidnapper.”

While the convention does not directly affect Japan-based families, Japanese and foreign parents here who lost custody pin hopes on their hopeful “gaiatsu,” or foreign pressure, scenario.

Lawyer Mikiko Otani, a member of the Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice on the Hague Convention, said ratification will bring positive changes to the family courts here, which will examine and rule whether to return a child in accordance with the convention.

The family courts will need to examine and rule on what types of child-taking are unlawful and what serves as the best interest of children in ways that are convincing to foreign authorities.

If the expatriation of children becomes a common practice, courts need to break free from traditional reluctance in using force in family conflict cases. It will discourage parents from simply taking away their children, even by force, as is widely occurring today, she added.

“Ultimately, Japan will need to approve a form of shared custody, which is the norm in most of the countries that are signatory to the convention,” Otani said.

But gaiatsu inevitably draws a backlash. To the relief of Japanese parents who flee with their children from overseas, the proposed domestic legislation to set court procedures for a child’s repatriation sets strict criteria for judges to do so.

The vaguest and most potentially controversial clause among the six requirements is that courts need to ensure there will be no possibility that the concerned child suffers “physical or psychological” abuse once returned.

“Can courts expatriate its nationals, minors, over public opinion? I don’t think that can happen,” said a Japanese mother who fought a lengthy, exhausting court battle in Australia with her ex-husband over custody of their two children.

BACKLASH FOR CHANGE

Interestingly, parties opposing the convention, and moves that can lead to the idea of shared custody, include both those from conservative and liberal camps.

Conservatives say that the single custody system is vital to maintaining the integrity of “koseki,” or Japan’s family registry system.

Kensuke Onuki, a lawyer who has represented Japanese mothers who have brought their children to Japan, agrees that one of the divorced parents must back away, in order to make a child’s new environment more stable.

“I don’t think many Japanese can stand the Western way of communication between children and their divorced parents, in which both parents participate in their children’s growing-up process,” Onuki said.

A head of a parents’ group seeking visitation rights said that even many of its group members, mostly fathers, will find it too burdening to fulfill shared custody, given the limited roles they played in child-rearing before their divorce.

Recalling his days on a family court bench in the mid-1990s, ex-judge Watanabe expressed regret that he and his colleagues had no doubts that it serves the interests of children to grant custody to their mothers.

He added that judges believe that courts must respect women’s parental rights, because it was historically denied to them and they had to gain them through postwar feminism.

“I also remember my boss telling me that the court should give men a ‘free hand’ to start a new life by eliminating responsibility to raise their children, and I really did not find much wrong with it,” Watanabe said.

“Now I know how painful, how cruel it is for a parent, regardless of the mother or father, to have their access denied.”

Watanabe added that he knows that the signing of the Hague Convention may be just the beginning of change for Japanese society.

“But I won’t give up, because this is the only way left for me to show my love for my daughter,” he said.

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Hague Sixth Meeting of the Special Commission: Abduction & Child Protection


PRESS RELEASE
http://www.hcch.net/upload/press_sc2011e.pdf

MEDIA ADVISORY

APPROXIMATELY 260 EXPERTS MEET IN THE HAGUE TO REVIEW THE PRACTICAL OPERATION OF THE HAGUE ABDUCTION AND CHILD PROTECTION CONVENTIONS

The Hague Conference on Private International Law will convene the Sixth Meeting of the Special Commission to review the practical operation of the Hague Abduction and Child Protection Conventions from 1-10 June 2011. Both Conventions are important, widely ratified multilateral instruments which protect the safety and welfare of children all over the world.

The 1980 Hague 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 and a “return order” will be issued unless the “taking parent” can establish that one of the exceptions found in the Convention should be applied. The Convention is now operating in 85 States, with additional States preparing to join, including Japan – which announced its intent to sign the Convention at the G8 Summit in Deauville, France last week.

The 1996 Hague Child Protection Convention provides for co-operation among the State 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 Convention currently has 32 State Parties, with many more States preparing to join. Most European Union States are already a Party to the Convention. Those EU States which are not yet a Party will become so in the near future. In addition, the United States signed the Convention this past October.

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

– domestic violence allegations and return proceedings;

– a statistical survey of cases pertaining to the Hague Abduction Convention;

– mediation principles and discussion of a draft Guide to Good Practice on Mediation;

– development of the International Hague Network of Judges, a global network of judges who act as a channel of communication and liaison with other judges within their own jurisdictions and in other Contracting States for issues relevant to the Hague Abduction Convention.

Conclusions and Recommendations of the Special Commission on the above topics, as well as other items discussed, will be issued following the closing of the meeting.

WHAT
Sixth Meeting of the Special Commission to review the practical operation of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention and the 1996 Protection of Children Convention, Part I (Part II will be convened in early 2012).

WHEN
Wednesday 1 June – Friday 10 June 2011

WHERE
Academy Building of the Peace Palace, Carnegieplein 2 (The Hague)

CONTACT
Micah Thorner, Legal Programme Officer
Permanent Bureau, Hague Conference on Private International Law
6, Scheveningseweg, 2517 KT The Hague, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 (70) 363 33 03 or +31 (70) 302 96 68 (direct); Fax: +31 (70) 360 48 67
E-mail: secretariat@hcch.net; website: <www.hcch.net>

MEDIA RESOURCES
Press kits will be available at the start of the Special Commission meeting on 1 June 2011.
Photographs of the Special Commission will be available upon request.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THE HAGUE, 30 May 2011
The Hague Conference on Private International Law is the world organisation for cross-border co-operation in civil and commercial matters. It has 72 Members located on every continent. Furthermore, more than 130 States are Parties to one or more Hague Conventions. In essence, the purpose of the Organisation is to build bridges between various legal systems, while respecting their diversity. In doing so it reinforces the legal security of private persons – an essential role in an age of globalisation in which rules and guidelines are needed.
####

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Wat is een internationale kinderontvoering door een ouder?


We spreken van een internationale ontvoering door een ouder als een ouder (of voogd) zijn kind meeneemt naar een ander land dan het land waar het normaal woont, zonder wettelijke toelating van de andere ouder. Onder deze definitie vallen ook de dossiers van kinderen die niet meer bij één van hun ouders in het buitenland op bezoek mogen gaan.

Het aantal kinderen dat door een van de ouders is ontvoerd nam vorig jaar weer toe. In het aantal ouderlijke kinderontvoeringen door de laatste jaren zit een stijgende lijn.

Uit de nieuwste cijfers van het Centrum Internationale Kinderontvoering (CIK) blijkt dat vorig jaar 182 kinderen werden ontvoerd door een van de ouders. Het gaat om 125 zaken. Twee jaar geleden ging het nog om 144 ontvoerde kinderen. In 2007 staat de teller op 77 kinderen die oneigenlijk wordt meegenomen. Van internationale kinderontvoering is sprake als een kind ongeoorloofd naar een ander land wordt overgebracht. Of daar onrechtmatig wordt vastgehouden door een van de ouders.
Het zijn vaak de moeders die de kinderen meenemen zonder dat de vader hiervan op de hoogte is. Zo ontvoerden moeders vorig jaar 79 maal het kind of de kinderen. Dinsdag werd de 39-jarige kinderontvoerder Hadi D. veroordeeld tot vier jaar cel voor het ontvoeren van zijn 12-jarige zoon Hamza. D. haalde op 10 juli 1999 zijn toen bijna 2-jarige zoontje weg bij zijn moeder in Assen en bracht het kind onder in Algerije. Daar wonen zij nog steeds.

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

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Parental Alienation Syndrome: How to Detect It and What to Do About It


By J. Michael Bone and Michael R. Walsh

Although parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a familiar term, there is still a great deal of confusion and unclarity about its nature, dimensions, and, therefore, its detection.(1) Its presence, however, is unmistakable. In a longitudinal study of 700 “high conflict” divorce cases followed over 12 years, it was concluded that elements of PAS are present in the vast majority of the samples.(2) Diagnosis of PAS is reserved for mental health professionals who come to the court in the form of expert witnesses. Diagnostic hallmarks usually are couched in clinical terms that remain vague and open to interpretation and, therefore. susceptible to argument pro and con by opposing experts. The phenomenon of one parent turning the child against the other parent is not a complicated concept, but historically it has been difficult to identify clearly. Consequently, cases involving PAS are heavily litigated, filled with accusations and counter accusations, and thus leave the court with an endless search for details that eventually evaporate into nothing other than rank hearsay. It is our experience that the PAS phenomenon leaves a trail that can be identified more effectively by removing the accusation hysteria, and looking ahead in another positive direction.

For the purpose of this article the authors are assuming a fair degree of familiarity with parental alienation syndrome on the part of the reader.(3) There are many good writings on PAS which the reader may wish to consult now or in the future for general information. Our focus here is much more narrow. Specifically, the goal is twofold. First we will describe four very specific criteria that can be used to identify potential PAS. In most instances, these criteria can be identified through the facts of the case, but also can be revealed by deposition or court testimony. Secondly, we wish to introduce the concept of “attempted” PAS; that is when the criteria of PAS are present, but the child is not successfully alienated from the absent parent. This phenomenon is still quite harmful and the fact of children not being alienated should not be viewed as neutral by the court.


Any attempt at alienating the children from the other parent should be seen as a direct and willful violation of one of the prime duties of parenthood.



The criteria described below are fairly easy to identify separate and apart from the court file. When there is uncertainty about any of them, these criteria can be used to guide the attorney in the deposing of witnesses as well as in their examination in court.

Criteria I: Access and Contact Blocking

Criteria I involves the active blocking of access or contact between the child and the absent parent. The rationale used to justify it may well take many different forms. One of the most common is that of protection. It may be argued that the absent parent’s parental judgment is inferior and, therefore, the child is much worse off from the visit. In extreme cases, this will take the form of allegations of child abuse, quite often sexual abuse. This will be addressed in more detail in Criteria II, but suffice it to say that often this is heard as a reason for visitation to be suspended or even terminated. On a more subtle and common level, an argument heard for the blocking of visitation is that seeing the absent parent is “unsettling” to the child, and that they need time “to adjust.” The message here is that the absent parent is treated less like a key family member and more like an annoying acquaintance that the child must see at times. Over time, this pattern can have a seriously erosive effect on the child’s relationship with the absent parent. An even more subtle expression of this is that the visitation is “inconvenient,” thereby relegating it to the status of an errand or chore. Again the result is the erosion of the relationship between the child and the absent or “target” parent. One phenomenon often seen in this context is that any deviation from the schedule is used as a reason to cancel visitation entirely.

The common thread to all of these tactics is that one parent is superior and the other is not and, therefore, should be peripheral to the child’s life. The alienating parent in these circumstances is acting inappropriately as a gatekeeper for the child to see the absent parent. When this occurs for periods of substantial time, the child is given the unspoken but clear message that one parent is senior to the other. Younger children are more vulnerable to this message and tend to take it uncritically; however, one can always detect elements of it echoed even into the teenage years. The important concept here is that each parent is given the responsibility to promote a positive relationship with the other parent. When this principle is violated in the context of blocking access on a consistent basis, one can assume that Criteria I has been, unmistakably identified.

Criteria II: Unfounded Abuse Allegations

The second criteria is related to false or unfounded accusations of abuse against the absent parent. The most strident expression of this is the false accusation of sexual abuse.(4) It has been well studied that the incident of false allegations of sexual abuse account for over half of those reported, when the parents are divorcing or are in conflict over some post dissolution issue.(5) This is especially the situation with small children who are more vulnerable to the manipulations implied by such false allegations. When the record shows that even one report of such abuse is ruled as unfounded, the interviewer is well advised to look for other expressions of false accusations.

Other examples of this might be found in allegations of physical abuse that investigators later rule as being unfounded. Interestingly our experience has been that there are fewer false allegations of physical abuse than of other forms of abuse, presumably because physical abuse leaves visible evidence. It is, of course, much easier to falsely accuse someone of something that leaves no physical sign and has no third party witnesses.

A much more common expression of this pattern would be that of what would be termed emotional abuse. When false allegations of emotional abuse are leveled, one often finds that what is present is actually differing parental judgment that is being framed as “abusive” by the absent parent. For example, one parent may let a child stay up later at night than the other parent would, and this scheduling might be termed as being “abusive” or “detrimental” to the child. Or one parent might introduce a new “significant other” to the child before the other parent believes that they should and this might also be called “abusive” to the child. Alternatively one parent might enroll a child in an activity with which the other parent disagrees and this activity is, in actuality, a difference of parental opinion that is now described as being abusive in nature. These examples, as trivial as they seem individually, may be suggestive of a theme of treating parental difference in inappropriately subjective judgmental terms. If this theme is present, all manner of things can be described in ways that convey the message of abuse, either directly or indirectly. When this phenomenon occurs in literally thousands of different ways and times, each of which seems insignificant on its own, the emotional atmosphere that it creates carries a clearly alienating effect on the child.

Obviously, this type of acrimony is very common in dissolution actions but such conflict should not necessarily be mistaken or be taken as illustrative of the PAS syndrome; however, the criteria is clearly present and identifiable when the parent is eager to hurl abuse allegations, rather than being cautious, careful. and even reluctant to do so. This latter stance is more in keeping with the parent’s responsibility to encourage and affirmatively support a relationship with the other parent. The responsible parent will only allege abuse after he or she has tried and failed to rationalize why the issue at hand is not abusive. Simply put, the responsible parent will give the other parent the benefit of the doubt when such allegations arise. He or she will, if anything, err on the side of denial, whereas the alienating parent will not miss an opportunity to accuse the other parent. When this theme is present in a clear and consistent way, this criteria for PAS is met.

Criteria III: Deterioration in Relationship Since Separation

The third of the criteria necessary for the detection of PAS is probably the least described or identified, but critically is one of the most important. It has to do with the existence of a positive relationship between the minor children and the now absent or nonresidential parent, prior to the marital separation; and a substantial deterioration, of it since then. Such a recognized decline does not occur on its own. It is, therefore, one of the most important indicators of the presence of alienation as well. as a full measure of its relative “success.” By way of example, if a father had a good and involved relationship with the children prior to the separation, and a very distant one since, then one can only assume without explicit proof to the contrary that something caused it to change. If this father is clearly trying to maintain a positive relationship with the children through observance of visitation and other activities and the children do not want to see him or have him involved in their lives, then one can only speculate that an alienation process may have been in operation. Children do not naturally lose interest in and become distant from their nonresidential parent simply by virtue of the absence of that parent. Also, healthy and established parental relationships do not erode naturally of their own accord. They must be attacked. Therefore, any dramatic change in this area is virtually always an indicator of an alienation process that has had some success in the past.

Most notably, if a careful evaluation of the pre-separation parental relationship is not made, its omission creates an impression that the troubled or even alienated status that exists since is more or lees an accurate summary of what existed previously. Note that nothing could be further from the truth! An alienated or even partially or intermittently alienated relationship with the nonresidential parent and the children after the separation is more accurately a distortion of the real parental relationship in question. Its follow-through is often overlooked in the hysterical atmosphere that is often present in these cases. A careful practitioner well knows that a close examination is warranted and that it must be conducted with the utmost detail and scrutiny.

If this piece of the puzzle is left out, the consequences can be quite devastating for the survival of this relationship. Also, without this component, the court can be easily swayed into premature closure or fooled into thinking that the turmoil of the separation environment is representative of the true parent-child relationship. Once this ruling is made by the court, it is an exacting challenge to correct its perception.

In a separate but related issue, a word should be said about the use of experts. First, it must be understood that all mental health professionals are not aware of nor know how to treat the PAS phenomenon. In fact, when a mental health professional unfamiliar with PAS is called upon to make a recommendation about custody, access, or related issues, he or she potentially can do more harm than good. For example, if the psychologist fails to investigate the pre-separation relationship of the nonresidential parent and the children, he or she may very easily mistake the current acrimony in that relationship to be representative of it, and recommend that the children should have less visitation with that parent, obviously supporting the undiagnosed PAS that is still in progress. If that expert also fails to evaluate critically the abuse claims or the agenda of the claimant, they may be taken at face value and again potentially support the undiagnosed PAS. If that professional is not also sensitive to the subtleties of access and contact blocking as its motivator, he or she may potentially support it, thereby contributing to the PAS process. When these things occur, the mental health professional expert has actually become part of the PAS, albeit unwittingly. Alarmingly, this happens often. Suffice it to say, if PAS is suspected, the attorney should closely and carefully evaluate the mental health professional’s investigation and conclusion. Failure to do so can cause irreparable harm to the case, and, ultimately to the children.


Criteria IV: Intense Fear Reaction by Children

The fourth criteria necessary for the detection of PAS is admittedly more psychological than the first three. It refers to an obvious fear reaction on the part of the children, of displeasing or disagreeing with the potentially alienating parent in regard to the absent or potential target parent. Simply put, an alienating parent operates by the adage, “My way or the highway.” If the children disobey this directive, especially in expressing positive approval of the absent parent, the consequences can be very serious. It is not uncommon for an alienating parent to reject the child(ren), often telling him or her that they should go live with the target parent. When this does occur one often sees that this threat is not carried out, yet it operates more as a message of constant warning. The child, in effect, is put into a position of being the alienating parent’s “agent” and is continually being put through various loyalty tests. The important issue here is that the alienating patent thus forces the child to choose parents. This, of course, is in direct opposition to a child’s emotional well being.

In order to fully appreciate this scenario, one must realize that the PAS process operates in a “fear based” environment. It is the installation of fear by the alienating parent to the minor children that is the fuel by which this pattern is driven; this fear taps into what psychoanalysis tell us is the most basic emotion inherent in human nature–the fear of abandonment. Children under these conditions live in a state of chronic upset and threat of reprisal. When the child does dare to defy the alienating parent, they quickly learn that there is a serious price to pay. Consequently, children who live such lives develop an acute sense of vigilance over displeasing the alienating parent. The sensitized observer can see this in visitation plans that suddenly change for no apparent reason. For example, when the appointed time approaches, the child suddenly changes his or her tune and begins to loudly protest a visit that was not previously complained about. It is in these instances that a court, once suspecting PAS must enforce in strict terms the visitation schedule which otherwise would not have occurred or would have been ignored.

The alienating parent can most often be found posturing bewilderment regarding the sudden change in their child’s feelings about the visit. In fact, the alienating parent often will appear to be the one supporting visitation. This scenario is a very common one in PAS families. It is standard because it encapsulates and exposes, if only for an instant, the fear-based core of the alienation process. Another way to express this concept would be that whenever the child is given any significant choice in the visitation, he or she is put in the position to act out a loyalty to the alienating parent’s wishes by refusing to have the visitation at all with the absent parent. Failure to do so opens the door for that child’s being abandoned by the parent with whom the child lives the vast majority of the time. Children, under these circumstances, will simply not opt on their own far a free choice. The court must thus act expeditiously to protect them and employ a host of specific and available remedies.(6)

As a consequence of the foregoing, these children learn to manipulate. Children often play one parent against the other in an effort to gain some advantage. In the case of PAS, the same dynamic operates at more desperate level. No longer manipulating to gain advantage, these children learn to manipulate just to survive. They become expert beyond their years at reading the emotional environment, telling partial truths, and then telling out-and-out lies. One must, however, remember that these are survival strategies that they were forced to learn in order to keep peace at home and avoid emotional attack by the residential parent. Given this understanding, it is perhaps easier to see why children, in an effort to cope with this situation, often find it easier if they begin to internalize the alienating parent’s perceptions of the absent parent and begin to echo these feelings. This is one of the most compelling and dramatic effects of PAS, that is, hearing a child vilifying the absent parent and joining the alienating parent in such attacks. If one is not sensitive to the “fear-based” core at the heart of this, it is difficult not to take the child’s protests at face value. This, of course, is compounded when the expert is also not sensitive to this powerful fear component, and believes that the child is voicing his or her own inner feelings in endorsing the “no visitation” plan.


Conclusion

All the criteria listed above can be found independent of each other in highly contested dissolutions, but remember that the appearance of some of them does not always constitute PAS. When all four are clearly present, however, add the possibility of real abuse has been reasonably ruled out, the parental alienation process is operative. This does not necessarily mean, however, that it is succeeding in that the children are being successfully alienated from the target parent. The best predictor of successful alienation is directly related to the success of the alienating parent at keeping the children from the target parent. When there are substantial periods in which they do not see the other parent, the children are more likely to be poisoned by the process. Another variable that predicts success is the child’s age. Younger children generally are more vulnerable than older ones. Also, another variable is the depth and degree of involvement of the pre-separation parent-child relationship. The longer and more involved that relationship, the less vulnerable will be the children to successful alienation. The final predictor is the parental tenacity of the target parent. A targeted parent often gives up and walks away, thus greatly increasing the chances of successful alienation.

The question remains: What if all four criteria are present, but the children are not successfully alienated? Should this failure at alienation be seen as nullifying the attempt at alienation? The answer to that should be a resounding “No!” It should be, but often it is not. It is very common to read a psychological evaluation or a GAL’s report that identified PAS but then notes that since it was not successful, it should not be taken very seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any attempt at alienating the children from the other parent should be seen as a direct and willful violation of one of the prime duties of parenthood, which is to promote and encourage a positive and loving relationship with the other parent, and the concept of shared parental responsibility.

It is our feeling that when attempted PAS has been identified, or not, it must be dealt with swiftly by the court. If it is not, it will contaminate and quietly control all other parenting issues and then lead only to unhappiness, frustration, and, lastly, parental estrangement.

Also read an alienated dad`s blog

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

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Les også Ole Texmo

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.

IMPORTANT TO KEEP IN MIND:

  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

Visit our web site at: www.abpworld.com