It may sound like the plot of a movie or television news special, but when your co-parent decides to ignore a lawful custody agreement and take your child outside the United States without your knowledge or permission, the situation becomes very real and scary.
Take Immediate Action
Your first step in this situation is to call the police and file a missing person’s report. When filing the report, ask that your child’s name be entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer database.
Next, you should contact the State Department, as they can advise you on the laws and resources available in different countries to help with your case. The State Department advises parents to gather copies of certain important documents that relate to your child, such as copies of the birth certificate, passport, and Social Security card. You should also have copies of any court documents relating to the custody of the child. In addition, you should have full-color photographs and physical descriptions of your child ready.
The FBI can assist with a criminal investigation if there is a warrant out for the arrest of the abducting parent, as long as the child was taken without the other parent’s consent and the child is under 16. However, because the FBI’s jurisdiction is limited to the U.S., they pursue criminal action on a case by case basis.
How an Attorney Can Help
If you are in the middle of a custody dispute when your child is kidnapped, you may file a Hague Convention application with the State Department. However, before you do this, you should consult your attorney for advice as to how filing the application will affect the custody case. For example, by looking at the circumstances of your case, an attorney can tell you if a criminal investigation, as mentioned above, will affect your Hague Convention application.
The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty, which is supposed to provide a quick procedure to return abducted children to their home country. The Convention is the primary civil law instrument that parents can use to seek the return of abducted children from other signatory countries. The Convention is applicable for abductions involving children under the age of 16. The Convention cannot order the return of the abducted child, but it determines the jurisdiction that should decide the custody issue. This allows for the return of the child to their home country for courts in that country to decide the issue of custody.
If your child has been abducted and taken to a country that is not a signatory of the Hague Convention, or if you decide to not file a Hague Convention application, you may decide to pursue legal action in the courts of the country to which your child was taken. In this case, it is even more important to consult with an attorney, even though they may not directly represent you in the other country.
Speak with an Attorney for More Information
If your child has been abducted and taken abroad by your co-parent, there is a lot of information to process. Not only can an experienced attorney assist you with a Hague Convention application, but they can also advise you as to any other steps that can be taken in local courts. You can contact a skilled child custody attorney, like a child custody attorney in Tampa, FL, for assistance in this critical issue.
Thanks to The McKinney Law Group for their insight into international parental kidnapping.