Summer school vacations are prime time for international parental child abductions. If your child is traveling with the other parent to a foreign country, and you are divorced, separated or in a volatile situation with that parent, consider preventative actions, even if you consent to the travel.
Custody changes possible
A parent who takes a child to a different country can gain jurisdictional advantage by opening a custody case in another country. That parent may be awarded custody, while the parent in the child’s original country is completely excluded from the process. This is a form of parental abduction.
In 2013, more than 1,000 children were abducted from the United States to an international location by a parent. The percentage of those children returning to the U.S., their country of habitual residency, has declined in recent years, despite the adoption of the Hague Convention by several countries and all of the United Nations since 1980.
Protections in place
The Hague Convention is an international treaty that protects children from wrongful removal across international borders and provides procedures to aid in their safe return. However, not all countries have fully enacted the Hague Convention and some countries do not have international custody treaties at all.
What you can do now
The best way to protect your child from this frightening scenario is to help prevent the abduction from occurring in the first place by following these tips:
Have a detailed custody order in place, including addressing relocation restrictions, supervised visitation, passport storage, among other issues.
Notify police of any abduction threats, no matter how innocuous they seem at the time.
Be on the look out for changes in the other parent’s life such as quitting a job, selling a home or closing bank accounts.
Know that if the other parent is a citizen of another country, your child may have dual nationality. Find out about the passport requirements for minors in that country.
Consider using The International Travel Child Consent Form, which is supported by the Secretary General of the Hague Conference. It requires both parental signatures.
Experienced counsel matters
International custody disputes are difficult for parents to navigate without legal aid. As an international domestic relations attorney experienced in such cases, I welcome your phone call or email to begin the process of ensuring protection is in place before your child leaves the country for summer holiday.
DISCLAIMER: The results of every case depend on factors unique to that case, and NZS Law does not guarantee or predict results in similar cases