28 children taken to Ireland from UK in parental abduction cases


30 December 2013

Source: TheJournal.ie

BRITISH GOVERNMENT FIGURES show there were 28 cases in the past year involving children who were abducted from a parent or guardian in the UK and taken to Ireland.

ireland_map

Total figures for parental child abduction and international custody cases have been revealed by authorities in Britain as they seek to raise awareness of the problem ahead of an expected spike in cases after Christmas.

They relate to cases whereby a child was taken out of the UK against the stipulation of a court order or against the will of one parent.

The number of cases involving the Foreign Office has more than doubled in the last decade, from 272 in 2003-2004 to 580 in the past year. Cases involving children taken to Ireland accounted for the fourth largest number of such incidents; Pakistan accounted for 35 cases, followed by the US (32) and Poland (29).

Contrary to the belief that fathers are most often to blame, mothers are responsible for 70 percent of the abductions, the Foreign Office said. Charities involved in child abduction said there was a spike in cases just after Christmas last year, and again in September following the summer holidays.

ireland_lrg1

Figures from the Department of Justice here show there were 83 cases of suspected abduction in in 2012 relating to attempts to bring children out of the country. The Department also dealt with 64 cases involving children entering the state.

Speaking earlier this year upon the release of the Irish figures, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said that parental-child abductions remained a “worrying problem”.

The UK Foreign Office has produced this video aimed at encouraging parents to consider the consequences of taking a child out of the country without permission…

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New FCO figures show parental child abduction cases on the rise


December 17 , 2013

Source: www.gov.uk

The number of parental child abduction and custody cases has more than doubled over the last decade *, with almost two children being abducted abroad each day, according to new figures released today by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and charity, Reunite.

baby-child-christmas-little-boy-Favim.com-248677

The FCO has launched a hard-hitting film, Caught in the middle, to highlight the issues and encourage parents to think of the consequences before doing something that could do lasting damage to the children and families involved.

In 2003/04 the FCO was involved in 272 new parental child abduction and international custody cases. In 2012/13 that figure rose to 580, the second highest figure ever recorded.

This year alone**, Reunite – a charity that provides advice and support to parents involved in parental child abduction cases – has dealt with 447 new cases involving 616 children. It reported a particular spike in cases after Christmas 2012 and again in September this year following the summer holidays.

Mark Simmonds, Minister for Consular Affairs, said:

I was very concerned to see an increase in child abduction cases. Parental child abduction has a devastating emotional impact on the child as well as the taking parent and the parent left behind. It can do lasting damage to a child’s relationship with both parents and their happiness. These are often distressing cases for everyone involved and there are no easy fixes, but our staff around the world work hard to assist those parents left behind.

We are launching this awareness campaign in the lead up to Christmas to try to prevent parents from doing something that would cause significant distress to themselves, their family and most importantly to the child. We also encourage parents to look for warning signs that their partner may be considering this. Once children are taken overseas it can be extremely difficult to secure their return to the UK. Many parents are not aware that by abducting their child, they may be committing a crime.

Alison Shalaby, Chief Executive of Reunite, said:

Parental child abduction is not faith or country specific – we see cases involving a range of countries from France and Poland to Thailand, Pakistan and Australia. The holidays can be a particularly stressful time for families, especially if the relationship between parents has broken down. However, there is help available if you think that your partner may be considering abducting your children. Last year we helped to prevent 412 cases involving 586 children which demonstrates something can be done to prevent it from happening to you.

Parental child abduction cases can take years to resolve, with significant impact on the child or children involved. There is a very real possibility that the child may never be returned. Even when cases are resolved it can take up to 10 years, with a devastating impact on the child, parents and families involved.

There is no typical ‘abducting parent’ – although abductions are more likely to take place where families have links to more than one country and, contrary to popular opinion, it is more likely to be the mother who abducts than the father (approximately 70% of abducting parents are mothers).

It is also much harder to return a child from a country that has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention, an international agreement between certain countries which aims to ensure the return of a child who has been abducted by a parent. The table below illustrates the most common Hague and non-Hague countries that children are abducted to.

christmas-chronic-ill-child

As well as emotional distress, both parents may often face severe financial difficulties as they fight for custody of their child through foreign courts. Legal costs overseas and in the UK may continue to mount up for parents, who must bear responsibility for the cost of any legal action taken, even after the child is returned to this country.

The FCO is working with Mumsnet and the charity, Families Need Fathers (FNF) to answer questions parents might have about this issue via their web pages Families Need Fathers and Mumsnet.

Top 10 Hague countries children have been abducted to*** Number of cases 2012/13 Top 10 countries children have been abducted to where Hague returns aren’t available Number of cases 2012/13
USA 32 Pakistan 35
Poland 29 Thailand 17
Ireland 28 India 16
Germany 18 Japan 11
France 12 Morocco 10
Canada 11 Egypt 8
South Africa 10 United Arab Emirates 8
Spain 10 Philippines 7
Australia 9 Oman 5
Turkey 8 Afghanistan 5

Where to go for help

There are lots of free sources of advice and support to help parents through difficult periods, including if you think your child is at risk of being abducted or has already been taken. You can call the Reunite helpline on 01162 556 234. You can also call social services and speak to a specialist solicitor. Counselling and support is available through Relate and the Samaritans.

Alternatively, you can contact the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 1500, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, visit our Child Abduction page for more information or read our advice leaflet.

You can also email childabduction@fco.gov.uk

Further information

For further information or to arrange media interviews please contact: 0207 478 7840

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 the HccH website

Visit our Child Abduction page for further information on parental child abduction, or the Reunite website

*Taken from 2003-2013 data held by the FCO. The FCO dealt with 580 new child abduction and custody cases in 2012/13, a 113% increase on the 272 new child abduction and custody cases it dealt with in 2003/04

**Reunite figures, January 2013 – October 2013

***Based on figures provided by the 1980 Hague Central Authority for England and Wales, Scottish 1980 Hague Central Authority and the 1980 Hague Central Authority in Northern Ireland.

Also read: Christmas holiday is the high season for International parental child kidnapping

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Call for child abduction UK ‘hub’


May 23, 2013

Source: expressandstar.com

Experts are calling for better recording and sharing of information to help tackle child abduction in the UK.

British-Child

 

A national child abduction “hub” should be created to give a clearer picture of the problem and provide data and support to improve how agencies deal with abductions, according to Ceop, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, and the charity Parents and Abducted Children Together (PACT).

A report from the two organisations found that almost half of child abduction cases reported in the UK between 2011-12 were committed by strangers. The report was based on police data that included 592 cases involving 675 victims.

In 42% of police reports – 247 out of 592 cases – the abductor or would-be abductor was not known to the child. A further 17% were abducted or victims of attempted abductions by a parent, 2% by another family member and 35% by someone known but not related to the child. Another 4% were by unknown offenders.

The report, “Taken – a study of child abductions in the UK”, warns that at present the true extent of child abductions is “impossible” to calculate with the necessary accuracy because of inconsistencies in the recording of offences.

It reveals that details of different types of child abductions and held by police forces, government, legal bodies and voluntary agencies, but says that this information is not always published or made routinely available.

The report, which comes ahead of International Missing Children’s Day on Saturday, sets out 14 recommendations, including agreeing a UK-wide definition of child abduction and improving how police record and respond to incidents. It also calls for a revamp of current “stranger-danger” warnings for children, and suggests there should be better learning from why so many attempted stranger abductions fail.

Kidsentfuhrung

Geoff Newiss, PACT’s director of research and author of the report, said: “This new report exposes the reality of child abduction in the UK today. Whilst children are abducted by parents and people known to them, a large proportion of incidents still involve strangers, often trying to lure a child into a car, and sometimes succeeding in doing so.”

Lady Catherine Meyer, founder and chief executive of PACT, said: “Many will find its revelations shocking. More importantly, by showing the extent of this hidden scandal, PACT’s report provides a vital platform for future action. The next stage of our work will be entirely focused on the practical steps necessary to protect our children from the would-be abductor.”

In 2011, Ceop took over the national strategic lead on missing children and now collaborates with partners to better understand and address the issue. Chief executive of Ceop, Peter Davies, said the report shows the immense harm that child abduction can do. He said: “Together with our partners, we must constantly redouble our efforts to reduce the risk to children. International Missing Children’s Day is a good opportunity for us to reflect on this important and complex issue.”

 

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Is Pakistan considering implementing the Hague Convention on Child Abduction?


May 1, 2013

Source: youblawg

Reports have come out of Pakistan this last week that the country is now seriously contemplating implementing the Hague Convention on Child Abduction.

Pakistani_Child

The reports mark extremely positive news for Child Abduction practitioners, and will receive enthusiastic support from the other countries (of whom there are more than 80) who have ratified the Convention.

At present, Pakistan ranks as one of the countries with the highest abduction rates to and from the UK. As Pakistan has never ratified the international agreement (Hague Convention) the best methods of securing a child’s return following abduction do not apply. There is currently a Protocol in place, which was originally implemented in 2003; however the Protocol has failed to bring about the same results seen in Convention cases. Attempts to secure the return of a Child following a Parental or family abduction therefore tend to be far more hit and miss than in many of the countries that have ratified the Convention.

With cases of child abduction increasing year on year, any move which strengthens international co-operation for the return of abducted children can only be seen as a positive step forward.

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UAE and Egypt rank high in UK parental child-abduction list


Source: Dubib.com

The UAE is one of the top locations for abductions of British children by one of their estranged parents, according to information released by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Arabian Business has learnt.


Countries that have not signed up to the 1980 Hague Convention, which includes those in the Middle East, are not compelled to abide by UK court orders to return a child abducted from the UK by either of its parents, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said.

While a spokesperson from the FCO would not give a breakdown of the data by country, he did admit the UAE ranked high among the 97 countries included in the rankings and it was the highest in the GCC.

“In 2010/11 we saw the highest numbers of new child abductions cases to non-Hague Convention countries in Pakistan, Thailand, India, China, Algeria, Malaysia, Egypt, UAE, Ghana and Iran,” a FCO spokesperson old Arabian Business.


In the last year, data from the FCO said a total of 161 British children were taken by one of their parents and abducted abroad. This is a ten percent rise on previous years and has led to the launch of a campaign by the FCO to combat the issue.

“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,” said FCO Minister Jeremy Browne.

Sharon Cooke, advice line manager for Reunite International Child Abduction Centre in the UK, 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… 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,” Cooke added.

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Child abduction by parents among Indian diaspora raises concern


Source: Inewsone.com , New Delhi, June 19

(IANS) Increasing number of child abductions by parents among the Indian diaspora has become a cause of concern as India is yet to join the internationalconvention on the issue, a British minister has said.

‘The cases where a parent abducts their child and takes it away to India are problematic because India does not have laws to deal with parental child abduction,’ British Minister for Equalities Lynne Featherstone said here.

The minister urged the Indian government to accede to the UN Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The British minister was here on a three-day visit to India June 15-17 to seek greater collaboration between the two countries on the issue of violence against women and gender equality issues.

According to Featherstone, the UK government receives at least one complaint per month of alleged abduction of a child by a parent of Indian origin. There are about eight such cases currently being investigated, the minister said.

The children were abducted by one of the parents and brought to India in order to gain the advantage in matrimonial and child custody disputes.

Child abduction cases by parents are high in countries which have a large population of people of Indian origin such as the UK, the US and Canada.

About 70 children were abducted by parents of Indian origin in the UK in the past eight years, according to a report.

The US State Department’s Office of Child Issues, which helps in child abduction cases, is currently working on more than 100 cases of children taken to India without the consent of the parent left behind. The State Department has said that there are few remedies if a child is abducted to India.

There are more unresolved cases of parental child abduction from the US to India than any other country with the exception of Mexico.

About 85 countries have ratified the 1980 Hague Convention on Parental Child Abduction. Under the convention, member countries undertake to return children abducted by a parent to their homes under the jurisdiction of the courts in the home country.

Parental child abduction has become one of the many issues that have been added to the agenda for inter-governmental discussions with visiting delegations from the US, Britain and Canada.

Several NGOs and activists in India and abroad have urged the government to accede to the Hague Convention.

On the occasion of Father’s Day (June 20), a Bangalore-based non-governmental organisation, Children’s Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP), has demanded that India ratify the Hague Convention and reform family law in India.

California-based Rakshak Foundation has also appealed to the union government to safeguard children’s rights and make parental abduction a cognizable, non-bailable crime.

Abduction of a child by one parent violates the child’s right to live in the security of the familiar home and prevents access to both parents. More and more child custody and abduction cases are landing in Indian courts relating to foreign citizens as well as non resident Indians (NRIs).

The Supreme Court has ruled recently that Indian courts have jurisprudence on child custody cases even if the child is a citizen of a foreign country. The courts apply the principle of best interest of the child, taking a foreign court decree as only one of the factors for deciding on the custodial dispute.

There have been occasions when the father had taken away the child from the country of residence, gone to India and left the child with his grandparents while he flew to work in a third country.

At other times, it is the woman who took the child on the pretext of visiting India.

Many abducted children are told that the other parent is dead or has gone away. Often one parent tries to poison the child’s mind to the other parent, which often causes psychological and emotional problems for the child.

‘Children in such cases are voiceless victims and their right to be connected to both biological parents needs to be protected,’ according to the Rakshak Foundation.

Often child custody cases lead to the child being deprived of the love, affection and care of one parent.

‘Joint custody and shared parenting are the best solutions for normal development of the child,’ the foundation said.

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Abduction and the child’s “best interests” – analysis


June 14, 2011 by Rosalind English, UK Human rights Blog

E (Children) FC [2011] UKSC 27 – read judgment see previous post for summary

This case shows some of the difficulties thrown up by the interesting tension between the primacy of children’s interests implied by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the controls on child abduction exerted by the 1980 Hague Convention.

The Human Rights Convention, in requiring that states ensure respect for family life,  protects first and foremost the rights of the child. But of course the Hague Convention has different priorities. The first aim of that instrument is to deter either parent from taking the law into their own hands and removing themselves and their children to another jurisdiction. If abduction does take place, the next object of the Convention is to restore the children as soon as possible to their home country, so that any dispute can be determined there, since the parent left behind is the wronged party, and should not be put to the trouble and expense of coming to the requested state in order to participate in the resolution of factual issues here. Article 12 therefore requires a requested state to return a child forthwith to its country of habitual residence if it has been wrongfully removed in breach of rights of custody. Article 13(b) mitigates that obligation if there is a “grave risk” of “physical or psychological harm.”

So far, so good. But this limitation on the duty to return has to be restrictively applied if the object of the Hague Convention is not to be defeated. In any event, it is rarely appropriate for a court to hear oral evidence  of the allegations made under article 13b and so neither those allegations nor their rebuttal are usually tested in cross-examination.

Children’s interests: where are they on a scale of importance?

To complicate matters further, Article 3(1) of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child also plays a role. This provision also ensures the primacy of the child’s interests:

“In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

As Jacqueline Renton points out in her excellent analysis of this case,’ “a” primary consideration’ is not the same thing as ‘“the” primary consideration’ or “the paramount consideration”. Nor does the Children Act 1989 apply to apply in Hague cases so as to make the child’s best interests “the paramount consideration.” But this somewhat begs the question of what all these adjectives mean. If there is a sliding scale of importance involved, then each of these words “paramount”, “the/a primary” etc should be clearly allotted their appropriate level so that practitioners and parties understand their chances in court.However, when the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg Court attempted to do something like this  in  Neulinger and Shuruk v Switzerland [2011] 1 FLR 122,  it seems to have caused great consternation by concluding that the primacy of the best interests of the child should determine the outcome, even if it went against the aims of Article 13(b) of the Hague Convention.

This consternation is expressed in the first paragraph of the Supreme Court’s judgment in this case, given by Lady Hale and Lord Wilson, and most of the following paragraphs are given over  to diluting the effect of the Grand Chamber’s decision.

Objectives of the Hague Abduction Convention

In considering the primary aims of the Hague Convention, the Supreme Court acknowledges that there was “no doubt” that the paradigm case which the Convention draftsmen had in mind was a dissatisfied parent who did not have the primary care of the child snatching the child away from her primary carer. Nowadays, the Court accepted, things have changed.

 the most common case is a primary carer whose relationship with the other parent has broken down and who leaves with the children, usually to go back to her own family. There are many more international relationships these days than there were even in the 1970s when the Convention was negotiated, so increasingly returning to her own family means crossing an international boundary.

There are other problems with the implementation of the Hague Convention. It is not only “all too common” for courts to recognise that there may be some truth in the claims of domestic abuse and ill-treatment – even violence – by the abducting parent,  but even if they do suspect there are some grounds to these allegations, they grant the return order sought under the Convention without any assurance that undertakings for the safety of the parties returned will be observed. Indeed, as this judgment observes, “the whole concept of undertakings is not generally understood outside the common law world.”

We have posted before on the primacy of children’s interests under other legislation involving cross-border matters (such as section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009).  The Hague Convention contains no express requirement for  the court hearing a case under its provisions to make the best interests of the child its primary consideration. Given that the objective of the Hague Convention is that the child should be present in the jurisdiction where the factual issues as to its upbringing are decided, the dominant theme of the instrument is that the best interests of the child will be served by a prompt return to the country where it is habitually resident.

An anachronism in a changing world?

This flies in the face of all the other areas of judicial endeavour where children are involved; there is nothing in modern life, where mass movements of people, be they refugees, economic migrants, or simply warring families, that dictates that the restoration of a child to “familiar” surroundings is a good thing in its own right. Those familiar surroundings may have involved violence, war, poverty, disease, a whole range of pestilences that drove the child away in the first place; this is why appeals to family rights carry weight in asylum cases. This was the thrust of the AIRE centre’s intervention.  It cannot be logical for one Convention to restrain the government from returning refugees to countries where they face torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or the risk of an unfair trial, when another Convention requires that an abducting parent should be returned to face such a risk.

Yes, the Hague Convention may be primarily concerned with routing the factual assessment of the family situation back to the jurisdiction where the deserted parent abides, but in any cases where Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention predominates, a full factual analysis is (or should be) undertaken of the emotional, psychological, material and medical nature of the interests at stake; how then is this analysis to be barged aside when the case also involves an abduction? This is precisely why the Strasbourg Court said, in Neulinger , that Article 8 should be applied to any case being decided under the Hague Convention; it follows that

 a child’s return cannot be ordered automatically or mechanically when the Hague Convention is applicable. The child’s best interests, from a personal development perspective, will depend on a variety of individual circumstances, in particular his age and level of maturity, the presence or absence of his parents and his environment and experiences. . .. For that reason, those best interests must be assessed in each individual case.

In doing so, the Supreme Court complains, the Strasbourg Court

 gives the appearance of turning the swift, summary decisionmaking which is envisaged by the Hague Convention into the full-blown examination of the child’s future in the requested state which it was the very object of the Hague Convention to avoid.

Although it sticks in this blogger’s craw to defend the Strasbourg Court, for once, I think, that Court got it right. It is not, indeed, for the Strasbourg court to decide what the Hague Convention requires. Its role is to decide what the ECHR requires. But where another Convention appears to be undermining the very interests that are so vigilantly protected by the Human Rights Convention, then what is this judicial body to do? It is simply wishful thinking to suggest that Article 8 can never “trump” the Hague Convention; that in some inchoate way “they march hand in hand” (sic). How can they possibly be so compatible when, on the one hand, Article 8 prevents the return of families to destinations where they may not be entitled to  a certain level of healthcare, while, on the other,  the Hague Convention return obligation is only lifted if there is a “grave” risk of  harm? In the Supreme Court’s own words –

“grave” characterises the risk rather than the harm, there is in ordinary language a link between the two. Thus a relatively low risk of death orreally serious injury might properly be qualified as “grave” while a higher level of risk might be required for other less serious forms of harm. [italics mine]

Hmm. Put in context, the children in this case face being returned to a father who, allegedly, laid about them and tormented and killed family pets as a form of intimidation.  Are we seriously being asked to believe, as this judgment suggests we should believe, that this is the sort of “rough and tumble” that every child has to put up with (“it is part of growing up” (para 34)? There were all sorts of undertakings made by the father, to be sure, which led the original trial judge to make the order, but these were undertakings given to the English High Court which cannot be enforced in Norway. Even at the time of this appeal there were no orders yet made in the Norwegian courts. The fact that the Supreme Court had real concerns about the children and mother in this case is betrayed by their request to the Hague Conference to consider putting in place some sort of mechanism to ensure that protective orders and undertakings are enforced in the requesting state.

Let’s have some clarity on where the weight to be given to the child’s best interests in all the areas of legislative endeavour where this is relevant – terrorism, asylum, immigration, family and social welfare law. Without such clarity, it is hard to believe that Article 8 considerations are really being taken into account within the Hague Convention, rather than being paid mere judicial lip service.

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Custody Laws – Violating the Custody Order Through Parental Kidnapping


If you are lucky to have your child back after he or she was kidnapped by your ex-spouse, you will now have to deal with another nightmare: the resulting trauma on your child.

The effects of parental kidnapping are emotionally, developmentally and psychologically devastating on children who in a moment were stolen away from their entire world of familiarity. Parents stealing children after a high conflict custody battle is not uncommon. Surprisingly more than 50 percent of these kidnappings take place during a scheduled visitation after which the child is not returned.

Taking a child away and concealing his or her location to the custodial parent in violation of a visitation order is a crime and a form of child abuse. Parental abduction has permanent ramifications in the victim’s life. The emotional effects on the abducted child can be as harmful as those of sexual abuse or neglect. After such an experience, children tend to be more timid, clingy, and relate poorly to others.

In her presentation to the United Nations Convention on Child Rights titled “Parental Child Abduction is Child Abuse”, Dr. Nancy Faulkner identified nine of the many harmful effects parental abduction can have on a child:

  • Reactive Attachment Disorder
  • Learned Helplessness
  • Fear and Phobias
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Guilt
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Parental Alienation
  • Separation Anxiety and Fear of Abandonment
  • Grief

If you have been in a prolonged and highly conflictive custody and visitation battle, you must rigorously adhere to the guidelines in the order. The same is applicable to your ex-spouse. He or she must abide to the time share percentages and visitation calendar conformed in the order. Many custodial parents are so drained after a custody dispute that they avoid having to go to court in order to enforce or modify the order. However, it is your obligation to watch over your child’s health, safety and welfare. A parent who regularly fails to comply with the visitation schedule or percentages of time share is not acting right. He or she is acting in contempt of the court. He or she is been disrespectful to you, to your child, and to our legal system. This parent is not a good role model for your child, and in fact, he or she might turn out to be a bad influence for your kid.

Repetitive violations to the custody and visitation order mean that you must go back to court to have the order enforced. The parent who regularly fails to comply with the visitation schedule is relating in an erratic and unhealthy manner with your child. This type of conduct should be addressed and penalized from the very start, in order to avoid a more serious violation, such as your child being kidnapped by your ex-spouse.

Find out about the custody laws that will impact your case, and learn how to get the custody order you want.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Caleb_Jonsun

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Father fights for daughter in parental kidnapping case


Source:  Jessica Rush, Planojobs.us June 13, 2011

Ronnie Baker / Staff Photo –For the last two years, Plano father Bart Hermer has dedicated his life to seeing his daughter returned from overseas. Alessia was abducted by her mother and represents one of more than 200,000 family abduction cases in the United States every year
Bart Hermer carries a pacifier with him at all times. It’s purple with flecks of glitter and has the words “Princess Alessia” scrolled across the plastic.
He keeps the soother as a small comfort of his own — a reminder that his 2-year-old daughter, Alessia, is still out there and waiting to be reunited with her father.For now, Alessia lives in the United Kingdom with her mother, 40-year-old Simmone Cohen, who is a British citizen. Hermer and his parents have spent around $75,000 on an international custody battle that has left them drained both monetarily and emotionally.

Every night, Hermer sleeps on a bed in the nursery to feel closer to his daughter, but an empty crib is a constant reminder that the woman who first stole his heart, also stole his most precious possession.
Blindsided
Hermer and Cohen’s relationship started out as a picture-perfect romance. He fell for her British accent and stunning looks when they met on a single’s cruise in 2007, and months later they were visiting each other’s countries. The aging couple talked about both wanting children, so within a matter of months they were engaged.”I swear on my daughter’s life, heart and soul we never had an argument,” Hermer said, reflecting on the blissful times. “We were the envy of everybody we knew.”

The two began planning for a wedding at the Dallas Arboretum — plans that were delayed when Cohen found out she was pregnant with Alessia. When the baby was 10 months old, Cohen planned a regular trip for the three of them to visit her family in London. Hermer said he had just been laid off from his job as an advertising executive, but Cohen had income from her marketing business she ran from their Plano home.

While going through customs at the London airport, Hermer was pulled aside and questioned. A customs officer accused him of trying to enter the country with the intention to live there — information Hermer’s fiancee had told them. As much as Hermer denied the story, he was sent back to the United States alone, and Cohen and Alessia remained in England.

“I was set up,” Hermer said. “The truth was she just wanted a baby.”

Back in Texas, Cohen’s designer clothes still hang in the closet. Her laptop was left behind, and a Plano detective confirmed in writing that she wrote messages contradicting their happy engagement.

“I definitley [sic] don’t want to marry him,” Cohen wrote in one Skype message to a family member. “… he knows I am delaying things so he may have guessed,” she wrote to a friend.

“She played him like a sucker,” Hermer’s mother, Kathy, said. “She lied about everything.”

An epidemic
The Hermer’s are not alone in their daily struggle with parental kidnapping. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) estimates more than 200,000 family abduction cases occur annually in the United States.

In cases involving children taken from the United States to the United Kingdom, 92 percent of cases are unresolved for longer than a year, and 38 percent are unresolved for more than five years, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database.

Hermer has tried to use international child abduction laws from the Hague Convention to get Alessia back. Article 3 of the convention talks about the “rights of custody” and says the courts must use the law of the state — in this case Texas — where the child was a resident before being abducted.

Even with letters of support from Texas Senators Florence Shapiro and Jane Nelson and state Rep. Jerry Madden, most of Hermer’s evidence was not allowed in the British court.

“I was not given a fair trial,” Hermer said. “I have solid evidence from credible people … and that evidence was not allowed. A lot of these countries will not return a child because of gender bias.”

After a crushing loss with denial of appeal, Hermer is trying a different approach. He hopes Attorney General Greg Abbott will push to have Cohen extradited to Texas on felony kidnapping charges.

“If my child stays there, it sets the precedent for thousands of children in the future,” Hermer said.

Time is ticking
Two years have passed with Hermer devoting his life to studying state and federal parental kidnapping law. He now works as assistant director of the Global Missing Children Fund.
Precedence from other international kidnapping cases shows that courts consider a child acclimated to their new country once they reach 3 years old. After that point, the courts are reluctant to return the child.

“I’ve got six months,” Hermer said, desperation in his voice. “She’s my life. She’s my pride. I don’t want to catch up with her in my 70s.”

He sees her occassionally when he is allowed to enter England for scheduled court hearings, but the trips are expensive and visitation is never guaranteed.

“When they are together it’s like they’ve never been separated for a moment,” Kathy said. “They had such a tight bond.”

Hermer is praying that someone will hear Alessia’s story and know how to help. While he is openly thankful for the ongoing support from Jewish Family Services, a separate fund has been set up for donations to offset some of the court costs at www.firstgiving.com/Bring-Alessia-Home.

“I’ll never quit until she’s in that crib,” he said. “I don’t care what it takes.”

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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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