Prevent International Child Abduction

International Parental Child Abduction is a complex legal matter that requires a deep understanding of domestic and international law combined with keen awareness of warning signs that may indicate an illicit scheme is being planned or has been implemented against a targeted parent and child. The following suggestions may be extremely helpful to you:

1.    To begin, the gravest mistake any person who may suspect they are targeted for abduction can do is to do nothing.  Time is the most critical element. As history has demonstrated over-and-over, when a parent who suspects that abduction may be in play does nothing, they usually become left behind parents chasing into the cyclones of abduction. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of children are ever returned home. Thus, if you think you and your child are possible suspects of international abduction, you must act now.

2.     We urge you to review the I CARE Foundation’s Warning Signs of International Parental Child Abduction. Carefully take notes as to what may and may not apply to your unique situation.

3.     If any of the Warning Signs of International Parental Child Abduction are present, we urge you to consult with a qualified attorney who is deeply familiar with international parental child abduction prevention, reunification, and the Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.  One of the greatest mistakes that any targeted parent can make is to hire a family law attorney who does not have significant familiarity with international child abduction prevention and reunification matters.  Sadly, we have seen numerous cases where failures by legal counsel not familiar with the complexities of international abduction cases has eventually led to targeted parents and their children being unprotected due to poor legal strategies.  Do not make this mistake.  If you are in need of a qualified attorney familiar with international child abduction matters, the I CARE Foundation may be able to provide a referral to you. Please contact legal@stopchildabduction.org for more information.

4.    In the event you believe there is an Abduction in Progress, you must act immediately. This includes contacting your local and national police as well as the Central Authority of the country you live in.  For example, the United States Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues acts as the Central Authority for the United States.  For a list of Central Authorities, please click here.

5.     In the United States, there are abduction prevention tools available for at-risk parents including the Passport Issuance Alert Program and the Prevent Departure Program that may be extremely beneficial toward protecting children.

6.     In North America, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, parents need to be aware of loopholes found in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative that may enable an abductor to wrongfully remove a child from their country of habitual residency.

7.     In all cases where there appears to be an abduction risk we suggest targeted parents immediately consult with a highly qualified attorney and discuss seeking an emergency order to obtain sole full custody of the at-risk children along with placing specific travel restrictions for the children including specifically that the child is not to be removed from the city or county, state or province, and country they live in.  We advise that travel restrictions include the child is not permitted to travel on any cruise ship as per the risks associated with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

8.     Dual Citizenship with individuals possessing dual passports presents a serious challenge for at-risk parents and their targeted children.  Knowing how to defend against Dual Citizens intending to abduct a child is critical, particularly since there is a large increase in multi-national marriages/partnerships. There are several important issues worth addressing including that in many countries only one parent’s signature is required to obtain a passport. In addition, many nations will not acknowledge to a non-national parent if a passport has been issued in the name of their dual-citizen child. Thus, it is rather easy for a parent who possesses dual citizenship or is a sole citizen of another country to state to the court possessing jurisdiction of a child that they either have never applied for a foreign passport for the child, or if they have, they are no longer in possession of it (they have lost it), as the court typically has no way to verify the validity of their statement. For assistance in the United States dealing with foreign passport issuance issues, please contact the I CARE Foundation at legal@stopchildabduction.org.

9.    The majority of international parental child abductions occurs when a child is wrongfully detained in a foreign country. Often the abducting parent misleads their targeted parent into thinking that travel abroad is for a family trip or due to a family illness. Often, the scheming parent will even invite the other parent to travel abroad with them. However, once in a foreign country with the child, the scheming parent will often make false claims of domestic violence or child abuse, seek to have their targeted parent arrested, often successfully obtain a restraining order against that person so that the target cannot have contact with the child, and, while this is all going on, the scheming parent will seek an emergency court order in the country they are in seeking for that court to take jurisdiction of the case, grant the scheming parent sole custody while denying any access to the other parent.

For any parent who is considering allowing a child to travel abroad, regardless if you think your relationship with the other parent is in good standing or not, or, if there is a court order directing the child to travel with the other parent, we urge you to utilize the I CARE Foundation’s Hague-centric International Travel Child Consent Form as this tool was created to protect against legal arguments associated with the wrongful retention of a child abroad. For more information please contact the I CARE Foundation at legal@stopchildabudction.org.

10.    In the United States, know that the Office of Children’s Issues is dedicated to assisting in the prevention of child abduction.

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