USA / India: India-US custody battle puts spotlight on child ‘abductions’ by parents


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On Friday last week, India’s Supreme Court began to hear a petition calling for guidelines to resolve such ‘abductions’ across international borders, and for the Indian government to join the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, an international treaty in force since 1983

Siminder Kaur and Vaneet Singh have fought over custody of their son Anhad for almost two years, both in courts in India, where the separated couple are from, and in courts in the United States, where they now live.

Their battle dates back to 2015 when the couple left Anhad, then two years old, with Mr Singh’s parents in the north Indian city of Mohali, returning to the US where they hoped to work on their marriage. Once they initiated divorce proceedings in 2016, however, Mr Singh refused to return Anhad to Ms Kaur, claiming that she was mentally ill and an alcoholic; in turn, she argued that he was physically abusive and had wrested Anhad from her.

But what started out as a family dispute has now taken on a much bigger shape. On Friday last week, India’s Supreme Court began to hear a petition filed by Ms Kaur, along with a father in a similar position and a US-based organisation called Bring Our Kids Home (BOKH), which is made up of roughly two dozen parents who claim children have been abducted by their spouses and taken to India.

The petition urges the court to frame guidelines to resolve such “abductions”, and calls upon the Indian government to join the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, an international treaty in force since 1983.

 

The Convention, which aims to return children to the country from which they were taken and to ensure that custody disputes are dealt with in that country’s courts, has 98 countries as signatories. India isn’t among them, but a government-appointed committee is holding public hearings to make recommendations about joining the treaty.

“There’s a misconception that these children are being taken ‘back’ to India,” said one of BOKH’s founders, who asked to remain anonymous because his own litigation involving a child abducted by his wife is ongoing. “But most of these children are American-born. Their homes were always the US, never India.”

Such abduction cases are alleged worldwide. Last year, a woman in Australia was imprisoned after being charged with kidnapping her two children and taking them from her estranged husband. She was later released after being ordered by the court to pay compensation.

But although abduction cases are by no means exclusive to certain countries, nearly 23 per cent of the applications filed every year under the Hague Convention deal with children being taken out of the US.

Roughly 1,000 American children are “abducted” overseas by a parent annually, according to US state department statistics. In January 2016, the department had 83 open cases of reported abductions to India, 25 of which had been filed the previous year.

Of all the parents who take their children to other countries globally, nearly 70 per cent are women, according to Hague Convention statistics.

Several Indian lawyers representing mothers who have returned to India with their children after fleeing domestic abuse argue that The Hague Convention does not protect such women.

“Under the Convention, these women don’t get to argue the merits of their case before they and their children are ordered back out of India,” Suranya Aiyar, a lawyer in New Delhi, told The National. “They’re asked to first go back and then make these arguments in the courts of the country that they left in the first place.”

Such situations are fraught with danger and difficulty. Women may often be returning to a home where they have faced physical or emotional abuse. They may also not have the resources to fight lawsuits in the US, especially if their husbands or ex-husbands were the wage-earners in their families.

Mothers worry that through such lawsuits, the fathers of their children will impel US consular officials to pursue action in India, Ms Aiyar said.

“I’ve had mothers calling me, scared that the police will knock on their doors at any moment,” she said. “They aren’t even willing to be on a private email chain or a WhatsApp group, because they’re afraid any public exposure will result in their kids being taken from them.”

Under current Indian law, the only recourse for parents whose children have been taken to India is the filing of a lawsuit in Indian courts.

Ms Aiyar believes this is sufficient, saying: “We already have laws and mechanisms for such disputes.”

BOKH’s co-founder disagrees, however, saying that only a minority of cases of abducted children involve spousal violence.

“We aren’t condoning that, of course, but we have to see it as a separate issue,” he said. “There are plenty of organisations right here in the US where a person being subjected to abuse can go to seek help.”

Parents also flee to India knowing that litigation in courts there is likely to drag on for years, he said. “It makes it more likely for a judge to say at the end of it all that the kid has gotten accustomed to India and should stay there.”

Anil Malhotra, a Chandigarh-based lawyer who has represented several parents overseas whose spouses have taken their children away to India, said an international platform like the Hague Convention was essential because the issue is international in scope.

At present, resolving disputes in multiple court systems becomes lengthy and expensive, harming the child’s welfare. “The present situation plays into the hands of the abducting parent,” Mr Malhotra said.

Ms Kaur too says in her petition to the Indian Supreme Court that the odds were stacked against her. Despite this, however, a US court has returned Anhad to Ms Kaur for the time being, even as her custody case continues. Mr Singh was threatened with arrest but Ms Kaur agreed to drop her charges against him if Anhad was returned to her.

Escorted by an FBI team, Ms Kaur met her son at the airport gate when he landed in the US earlier this year, and she picked him up as soon as she saw him. Her arms, she said in her petition to the Indian supreme court, grew sore from holding and carrying her son, “but that pain was the sweetest pain she [had] felt in a long time”.

 

 If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from India feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

India: Courts can turn down child repatriation, says Supreme Court


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For welfare of the child, Indian courts can deny repatriation of children involved in cross-border parental abduction, says the Supreme Court.

A Supreme Court judgment delivered on Wednesday accords courts in India unlimited discretion to determine which parent should have the custody of minor children involved in international parental child abduction.

The verdict holds that Indian courts can decline the relief of repatriation of a child to the parent living abroad even if a foreign court, located in the country from where the child was removed, has already passed orders for the child’s repatriation.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy held that the welfare of the child was the “paramount and predominant” consideration when such a case came up before a court here.

The judgment, authored by Justice Roy, observed that welfare of the child came first over the repatriation order of the foreign court as India was not a signatory to the Hague Convention of “The Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction”.

“The principle of comity of courts is not to be accorded a yielding primacy or dominance over the welfare and well-being of the child,” the apex court held.

A court, regardless of the repatriation order of the foreign court concerned, can refuse repatriation to the parent settled abroad if it is “satisfied that the child is already settled in its “new environment” in India or if repatriation would expose the child to physical harm or if the child would be placed in an “intolerable or unbearable situation” back with the parent settled abroad, and finally, if the child, on attaining maturity, objects to going back.

The judgment came in a case where the father took the younger of the two sons from his wife’s custody in the United States and came to India. The mother’s version was that he had taken the boy on the pretext of visiting the neighbourhood mall. A U.S. Court upheld her lawful custody and ordered the man to return his son to his wife.

The Supreme Court concluded that the boy, who is five-and-a-half years old, has settled in India, studying in a reputed school here and enjoys his extended family. The apex court allowed the father to retain his son in India, while noting that the parents are frequently in touch over e-mail. Uprooting the boy from his present situation may be counter-productive, the apex court held.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from India feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

USA: School security involves far more than fire drills and active


 

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Dive Brief:

  • Schools can be better prepared for likely scenarios, such as fighting or non-custodial parental abductions, and less-likely scenarios, such as natural disasters and active shooter threats, Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, says in this District Administration article.
  • Because security failures and lawsuits often involve allegations of human error and procedural problems more than failures of security equipment and hardware, schools need to engage in regular staff training through emergency drills or planning activities with crisis teams and first responders.
  • Schools also need to focus time and attention on fundamental strategies, such as providing adequate student supervision, implementing a variety of drills, planning for evacuations, creating and testing crisis communication plans and practicing the “five-minute” rule by taking five minutes at the end of each team meeting to discuss an aspect of the school’s security plan.
 Dive Insight:

Threats to student safety are one of the biggest concerns of school administrators. Parents trust schools to protect their children from a variety of threats throughout the day. The obligatory fire drill is not enough anymore, especially in a day when violent school threats are escalating.

Schools must prepare for a variety of threats including weather-related disasters and earthquakes. Bomb threats are often used as a way to manipulate school staff and yet every threat must be taken seriously. School leaders must be skilled at threat assessment in order to protect students while allowing for the minimal disruption to the education process.

Though school shootings are the nightmare scenario for every administrator, taking steps to prevent such events is even more important. And though these events draw the most attention, the escalation of school fights is probably a more common threat to school security. Schools must learn how to prevent these incidents as much as possible and how to address these problems when they occur.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from The United States feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

USA: Press Releases: Special Advisor for Children’s Issues to Travel to Japan and the Republic of Korea


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The Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, Suzanne Lawrence, will travel to Tokyo and Seoul from December 4-14.

Special Advisor Lawrence will lead the U.S. delegation in a conference focused on the Hague Abduction Convention in Tokyo, which will provide an opportunity to engage with representatives from countries throughout the Asia Pacific region on the critical issue of international parental child abduction. The Special Advisor will also meet with government officials in both Tokyo and Seoul to discuss intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction issues.

The United States is dedicated to supporting intercountry adoption as a viable option for children in need of permanency, and to preventing and resolving international parental child abduction cases.

For more information about the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, visit: www.adoption.state.gov and www.travel.state.gov/childabduction

For press inquiries please contact CAPRESSREQUESTS@state.gov or (202) 485-6150.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from The United States, Japan or Korea feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

Guam / Canada: Dad searches for daughter


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Somewhere in Guam, there’s a father who has been desperately trying to get reunited with his little girl, Isabelle.

That Dad, Jonathon Dandridge, an Air Force veteran from Tennessee, was drawn to the island from thousands of miles away, to the call of a specialized, well-paying civilian job with a military contractor.

While some parents have chosen to walk away from their young children, his is a story of his relentless pursuit to find his daughter.

Isabelle, a blue-eyed, brown-haired girl who loved the goats on her dad’s farm, was 7 years old when she vanished.

And Dad has missed her past two birthdays, including one that just passed – last September.

“I just want to say I love her,” Dandridge said. He turned his face momentarily away in a recent interview, attempting not to show he teared up. Again.

When he’s not at work, the web and his phone are his companions – for checking for any more clues on Isabelle.

This is a story that could occur in broken homes – of parents who loved each other, had children, but then the relationship sours. And the bitter split makes one parent flee with an innocent young child – across an international border.

As they disappear, in foreign territory, it leaves the other parent with the difficult task of conducting a search, often without extensive resources, and without the help of the strong arm of the federal government.

There are hundreds to more than 1,000 parental abduction cases in the United States each year, and Dandridge hopes his case will someday find closure, with the federal authorities’ help.

There are complexities with Dandridge’s efforts to find his daughter, but he said he’s not given up, never will.

Isabelle is believed to be in Canada where her mother’s from, Dandridge said.

The mother and daughter disappeared when Dandridge was on Guam, working for a military contractor. His daughter went missing in Tennessee, where she was with her mom, in a home on an 11-acre farm that Jonathon Dandridge had been making mortgage payments on – or so he thought.

An empty home

In that farm, Dandridge said wistfully, he and Isabelle had good times with the farm’s animals.

“Isabelle loved goats,” Dandridge said. A photo of him and Isabelle at the farm he used to own is one of the keepsakes he holds onto.

Dandridge came to Guam as a civilian explosives and ordnance disposal expert for a private contractor that provides services to the military.

This dad had planned to take his first Guam job only temporarily, so he could scrape up enough money for the remaining few semesters left for him to complete medical school.

The pay was good on Guam with the kind of specialized skills he had. Over several months of working here, he showed bank statements and other records showing he had sent home almost $28,000 to his then-wife, for the monthly payment on his mortgage on his home and 11-acre farm, household bills and Isabelle’s education at a private, Christian school.

Eventually, he found out the mortgage wasn’t paid, and that his wife found someone new, he said.

When he came home to Tennessee to further check what was going on, he found his house literally emptied. His family heirloom coin collection was gone, the furniture was gone and even documents about his family and of his past career and professional certificate were no longer there. The only thing left was a tattered American flag, on the floor, that Dandridge said his father has had since serving in Vietnam, he said.

The house ended up repossessed by the bank, he said.

He said he’s accepted the reality of her leaving, but he couldn’t give up on Isabelle.

Dandridge filed for divorce on Guam and a Superior Court judge granted the divorce and gave him primary custody of Isabelle, the divorce judgment shows.

But his victory on parental custody is for now, on paper. His little girl is still somewhere in Canada, Dandridge believes. He tried to call and write to a community Christian school in Drake, Ontario, where he thinks she might be attending school, but he was barred from further communicating with the school, he said.

He’s been tempted to cross the border himself and try to take Isabelle back, but received advice he could get arrested in doing so, if he doesn’t go through the proper, official channels.

FBI Guam has jurisdiction

By this time, more than two years after the disappearance of Isabelle, his hope is for the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Guam to file a criminal parental abduction case so that his ex-wife could be brought back to the United States, and he could have Isabelle back.

Dandridge said he has exhausted his resources, but not his energy to somehow keep the disappearance of Isabel online alive.

He’s spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to find Isabelle, he said, including putting her photo, the circumstances of her disappearance and pleas for the public to help give him information that will lead to Isabelle. Her disappearance was covered by local news media in Tennessee, but public interest in the case in Tennessee has gone cold. The National Center for Missing Children has listed Isabelle as a missing child.

His story, the photos of Isabelle, his email and Guam cell phone number are all over Internet for the world to be able to reach him at any notice if they’ve come across information on the specific whereabouts of his little girl.

Dandridge’s predicament has received the attention of the FBI and the Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo’s office.

Dandridge said Bordallo’s staff have been very helpful in following up with the federal government, and the FBI has been trying to help him.

The FBI in Memphis, Tennessee, had written to Bordallo’s office, letting her know in an Aug. 2, 2017 letter, that the FBI office on Guam has met with Dandridge and provided him with information on assistance for victims of crimes.

“Mr. Dandridge has been advised the investigation would remain within the Guam Resident Agency and that the matter would not be pursued in the Memphis field office,” of the FBI, wrote a Kevin Lyons, a deputy assistant director for criminal investigation division.

Dandridge has also written to the U.S. Embassy in Canada to seek help, but he was told, in a letter, he would need to hire a Canadian attorney. The attorney would cost Dandridge an initial $25,000 just to get started getting represented in Canada. And it’s the kind of money Dandridge said he doesn’t have, after having exhausted his resources trying to find Isabelle for more than two years now.

Continuous efforts

The next step he said he hopes would happen, is for the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Guam to file a criminal case that will then – and this is another hope of this – lead to an order that would authorize federal agents to bring Isabelle back to him, here in the United States.

Dandridge had requested expedited resolution, and asked for the FBI’s assistance, in what the FBI in Memphis described as the parental abduction of his daughter by his ex-wife.

Dandridge is asking federal authorities on Guam to take jurisdiction because his court order giving him parental custody was issued on Guam.

The Guam Daily Post has reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Guam. “Our response is, ‘No comment,’” the office emailed.

Dandridge has posted numerous messages and information on websites for missing children hoping to reach Isabelle, or someone who can help lead him to her.

In all of his efforts, there are times when Dandridge said he felt overwhelmed, but never has it crossed his mind, he said, to give up.

His strong Christian faith keeps him going, and continuing on, even in his toughest moments about missing Isabelle.

“I love and miss you so much. I will never stop looking for you!” he said.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from Guam feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

USA / Iraq: Suspect Faces Charges for Attempted Kidnapping


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BROWNSVILLE – A man accused of abducting his daughter from Brownsville waits for his sentencing after pleading guilty.

He allegedly took his daughter across the border without her mother’s permission.

Thirty-six-year-old Ismail Khaleel al Gebory is charged with international parental abduction.

Documents show he failed to drop-off his 8-year-old daughter with her mom back in February.

According to court documents, al Gebory was trying to get his daughter a passport to Iraq.

Federal authorities used Brownsville bridge surveillance to find out the two had crossed into Mexico.

Al Gebory faces three years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 6.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from The USA, or Iraq feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

Scotland: Number of Scots children abducted by overseas parents soars


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Campaigners have stepped up calls for a change in Scots law to tackle international abductions of children by a parents overseas after new figures revealed a soaring number of cases in the past decade. Dozens of new “international abduction” cases happen every year in Scotland having previously stood in single figures in 2007.

The practice has been branded “child abuse” by campaigners who say there is a “stark difference” between Scotland and England over the issue. It is a criminal offence south of the Border. In Scotland, police cannot act until a court order has been obtained – which can take anywhere between a day and a week. The figures revealed by justice secretary Michael Matheson in a Parliamentary answer yesterday shows that there were 33 cases parental child abduction for Scotland in 2016.

Although this is down from the 41 cases recorded in 2015, it is nonetheless a marked increase from the eight cases recorded in 2007. Most involved cases of children being taken out of Scotland, which reached a new high of 20 last year – up from two in 2007. India, Australia, the USA, Italy and Poland are among the countries where children have been taken, according to support charity Reunite International.

Solicitor Yousif Ahmed is now calling for a change in law which would mean parents not needing to go through the lengthy process of securing a court order before police can act. “That’s not fit for purpose – all it takes is a few clicks of a mouse button to book a same-day flight and the child can potentially be gone and lost forever,” he said. Many parents won’t be aware that an abduction is looming which means they won’t be in a position to secure an interdict.

Mr Ahmed is to meet Scottish Government officials to push for change. Vicky Mayes of Reunite International said it’s a particular problem for Scots parents who fear an abduction may be imminent. “It’s so stark, the difference, when you’re advising one parent in England and one parent in Scotland. There can be such a difference in what the police can do and what can be done to stop a child from being abducted and therein minimise the impact of all of this on that child.”

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from Scotland, feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)