With the increased amount of marriages between residents of the United States and foreign nationals, the problem of international child abduction by parents is increasing. A parent commits international child abduction when that parent takes or keeps their child out of the United States in violation of the visitation provisions ordered by a U.S. court. Essentially, a parent takes their child overseas in order to avoid the provisions of a U.S. custody order.
In order to combat international child abduction by parents, various countries, including the United States, entered into the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. These countries created a system in which a parent who is the victim of international child abduction can have their child returned to their country. However, these treaty systems are only in place between countries that are members of the Hague Convention. If your child was taken to a member country in violation of a U.S. court order, then go to the U.S. State Department's website regarding international child abduction.
Unfortunately, many countries, including India, Pakistan and Vietnam, are not members of the Hague Convention. For these non-treaty countries, a child's parent in the U.S. will have to go through that non-treaty country's legal system in order to retrieve their child from that non-treaty country. This is, obviously, a nightmare situation often made even worse by the fact that the parent in the U.S. is not from the country where the child is being kept. It's clear that if a child is taken to these non-treaty countries, it may already be too late. Therefore, if international child abduction is a real concern, then the concerned parent's goal should be to reduce the risk of it occurring. The following steps will help reduce the risk of international child abduction by a parent.
Get a Court Order
The first step if international child abduction is a concern is to get a court order restricting the residence of the child to a specific geographic area, usually a specific county. Courts in Harris County and Fort Bend County routinely grant this restriction. If a parent can prove that the other parent is a true and immediate risk for committing international child abduction, Texas courts also have the power to put into place other significant protections against international child abduction. This includes: supervised visitation for the potential abductor; requiring bond from the potential abductor; requiring the potential abductor to register the court order with the U.S. State Department; prohibiting the potential abductor from applying for or having access to the child's passport; and prohibiting the potential abductor from removing the child from school, the child's county of residence, Texas or the United States. Obtaining the correct court order is such a crucial step because without court ordered restrictions on travel, parents have the right to take their children overseas.
Maintain Control Over the Child's Passport
Whether by court order or before going to court, a parent concerned about international child abduction should maintain control over their child's passport. A potential abductor will have a much harder time removing a child from the United States without that child's passport. It's best to keep the passport in a safe deposit box to which only the parent concerned about abduction has access. Some children may have dual citizenship and a passport from another country. It's important to secure possession of these passports also, if possible. Furthermore, keep in mind that U.S. law requires both parents to sign off on a passport application for any child under 16 unless one parent has sole custody. However, if a parent is concerned that a passport was issued without their consent, that parent should contact the U.S. State Department.
Monitor the Other Parent's Behavior
Courts in Texas look at specific behaviors by a parent to figure out whether there's a real risk of international child abduction. The concerned parent should also keep an eye out for those types of behaviors. They include: quitting a job; selling a home or ending a lease; closing bank accounts; liquidating assets; applying for travel documents; and applying for copies of the child's birth certificate and/or medical records. Also, if a potential abductor loses or doesn't have a financial motive to remain in the United States, that's a major risk factor. Finally, if the potential abductor has actually threatened to abduct the child or has abducted the child in the past, then those are also major risk factors.
Track the Child
The concerned parent should look into technology that will allow them to track their child's location via GPS. This is allowed unless explicitly prohibited by a court.
Prepare the Child
If a child is old enough and mature enough, the concerned parent should talk to the child and prepare the child for what to do in case the other parent attempts abduction. The concerned parent should take care not to portray the other parent in a bad light but should inform the child that the other parent is prohibited from traveling abroad with the child. The concerned parent should also ask the child whether the other parent has taken or talked about taking any steps to travel abroad with the child.
Contact Law Enforcement
If a potential abductor makes threats to abduct the child, the concerned parent should contact the police and, if a court order with restrictions exists, provide a copy of the court order to the police. The concerned parent should immediately call the police if they believe an abduction is happening or is imminent, especially if the other parent has made threats. The concerned parent should also enter their child into the FBI's National Crime Information Center.
Contact the Airlines
The majority of people leave the United States via airlines. The concerned parent should know ahead of time what airlines fly to the country where their child may be taken. If the concerned parent believes an abduction is occurring or imminent, they should contact the airlines to see if any tickets have been purchased in their child's name. If any tickets have been purchased, the concerned parent should inform law enforcement and the airlines about the tickets and any court orders restricting their child's travel.
If you believe that there is a risk your child could be a victim of international parental child abduction, contact Sugar Land child custody attorney Chikeersha Puvvada at 281-313-5300 or online today to schedule a consultation.