A common scenario in international child abduction cases is for one parent to take a “vacation” with the children and then never return. With spring break and summer break looming, parents need to be extremely wary of the other parent’s planned travel with the children if there is any reason to suspect that the other parent might not return with the child.
Overt, immediate threats to relocate with children are of course cause for concern, but parents should also be on the lookout for less obvious warning signs. For example, quitting a job or selling major assets in the United States should trigger concerns about potential child abduction to another country. A parent who has concerns about the other parent abducting their children to another country should immediately seek advice from an attorney who is knowledgeable about the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, done at the Hague on October 25, 1980 (“Hague Convention”). Among other things, parents should consider pursuing the following measures:
- Requesting that a court issue an order prohibiting the children from traveling out of the United States and safeguarding the children’s passports.
- Petitioning a court to restrict the other parent to supervised visitation if there are legitimate concerns about possible child abduction.
- Obtaining a detailed custody order providing specifics about the duration of the planned travel and setting limitations on travel destinations.
- Enrolling the children in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program.
- Contacting law enforcement, including authorities at airports, if the abduction is imminent.
According to the U.S. Department of State, more than 600 children were abducted from the United States to another country in 2015. The State Department has not yet released its report on international parental child abductions in 2016, but the numbers are bound to be as high or higher than they were in 2015. Parents must therefore be proactive about preventing their children from being abducted by the other parent and should not wait until it is too late.