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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