International child abduction case has a Western New York angle


October 5 , 2014

Source: buffalonews.com 

Mom, daughter on the run crossed border in Falls

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 11.02.27

At an age when most girls are thinking about junior high, making new friends and fitting in, Isabella Miller-Jenkins is on the run from the law.

It’s an international journey, authorities say, that began with her kidnapping in Virginia, brought her to Buffalo and eventually landed her with a group of Mennonites willing to hide her in Nicaragua.

Isabella, now 12 and under the alias of Lydia, is believed to be living there with one of her two mothers, Lisa A. Miller, the woman accused of abducting her five years ago.

Their story, which has garnered national headlines, could very well end here if Isabella and her mother are ever found. A federal grand jury in Buffalo recently indicted Miller and two others on charges of conspiracy and international parental kidnapping.

“Isabella, like any other child, deserves to grow up in her home country with parents and relatives who love her,” Janet Jenkins, Isabella’s other legal parent, said in a statement to The Buffalo News. “I am grateful for the efforts of law enforcement in Vermont, Virginia, New York and Nicaragua who have been working to find Isabella and prosecute those who have conspired in her abduction.”

Unlike most cases of parental kidnapping, the Miller prosecution has unfolded on the national stage for all to see. The New York Times and Atlantic Monthly are just two of the many news organizations that have followed the story.

It’s a case chock-full of social and legal issues – same-sex marriage, homosexuality, parental rights – that divide much of the nation.

So why prosecute the case in Buffalo?

The allegation is that Miller, eager to leave what she now calls the “homosexual lifestyle,” fled Virginia with her daughter in 2009 and, with the help of co-defendant Philip Zodhiates, made her way to Buffalo.

It was here, at the Greater Buffalo International Airport, that she hired a taxi driver to take them across the Rainbow Bridge into Canada. From there, they made their way to Mexico and ultimately Nicaragua.

“Janet believes that her daughter is still in Central America in the company of Lisa Miller and the Amish Mennonite community,” Sarah R. Star, Jenkins’ Vermont lawyer, said in a statement.

Jenkins is eager to have her daughter home and is asking anyone who might know where she is to please come forward.

“Isabella is sorely missed by her mother Janet, her aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and many friends who have not seen her in five years,” the attorney said. “She requests that anyone with further information about Isabella’s whereabouts or her well-being contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”

A renounced relationship

The photos of a smiling 7-year-old girl in blond pigtails have been part of the National Center’s website for four years.

A flyer with the words, “Missing. Please bring me home,” has been circulating since Miller fled Virginia with Isabella, leaving behind Jenkins, her partner from a civil union in Vermont.

Years earlier, Miller had renounced their relationship, returned to Virginia and, according to the Times, taken a job teaching at Liberty Christian Academy, a school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

By then, Vermont had dissolved their civil union and granted custody to Miller and visiting rights to Jenkins.

Miller, now 46, would later acknowledge that, even before she and Jenkins moved from Virginia to Vermont, a state that recognized same-sex unions, she had started questioning their lesbian relationship.

Miller, who became pregnant through in vitro fertilization, also had a troublesome pregnancy with Isabella and, in notes that later became public, acknowledged a desire to reconnect with the church.

“I promised God that, if he would save my baby, I would leave the homosexual lifestyle,” she said in one of her journals.

One of her lawyers, Rena M. Lindevaldsen, associate dean of the Liberty University Law School, refers to the notes in “Only One Mommy,” her 2011 book on Miller’s decadelong fight to become Isabella’s only parent.

When the courts in Vermont and Virginia disagreed and upheld Jenkins’ visitation rights, Miller tried stopping her former partner from seeing their daughter.

Lisa-Miller-and isabella poster

When the courts again intervened and ultimately granted Jenkins custody, she left Virginia and never returned.

“I only want to see my daughter,” Jenkins told the Times in 2012. “What’s hard for me is not knowing what she’s going through.”

National implications

Jenkins, now 49, is still in Vermont and has since married another woman.

Even before she fled, there were hints that Miller might not accept the courts’ rulings on Jenkins’ visitation and custody rights.

In a 2009 letter to a judge in Vermont, according to the Times, she said Isabella, “knows from her own reading of the Bible that marriage is between a man and a woman … that she can not have two mommies.”

“What is at stake,” she told the judge, “is the health and well-being of an intelligent, delightful, beautiful, 7-year-old Christian girl.”

Early on in her custody fight, Miller enlisted the support of Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit Christian organization known for its pro bono work on issues such as same-sex marriage. The group argued that Virginia law, which did not recognize civil unions, should have precedence over the case, and that Miller should be declared Isabella’s sole parent.

A lower court in Virginia initially agreed, but the state’s appeals court took a far different stance. It said Vermont’s laws should rule.

Viewed as a custody fight with national implications, gay-rights groups such as Lambda Legal and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders have joined the battle, providing legal aid to Jenkins.

No sightings since 2011

Sometime in late September 2009, Isabella and her mother arrived in Managua, Nicaragua, and were greeted by Timothy D. Miller, a Mennonite pastor who is no relation to Miller.

He took the two of them to Jinotega, a town in the “coffee-growing hills of northern Nicaragua,” according to the Times. They stayed for about two months, he told the paper, and returned to Managua, but had trouble accepting the isolation there.

Mother and daughter eventually went back to Jinotega but, in 2011, disappeared when word filtered back that Timothy Miller had been arrested in Washington, D.C., and charged with aiding in Isabella’s abduction.

By all accounts, there have been no sightings of Isabella or her mother since then. Authorities believe they are still somewhere in Nicaragua.

Lindevaldsen could not be reached to comment, but in a 2012 interview with C-SPAN, said she has no idea where her client ended up.

“It seems at one point she was in Nicaragua,” she said at the time, “but that’s all I know, as far as what’s in the court papers.”

The latest indictment also charges Timothy Miller and Philip Zodhiates with helping Lisa Miller escape the country. Zodhiates, a Virginia businessman, is accused of traveling with them to Buffalo and then contacting an unidentified individual who helped them make their way through Canada.

Zodhiates could not be reached to comment, but is expected to be arraigned Wednesday in Buffalo before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy.

For Timothy Miller, this is the second round of federal charges. He was charged in 2011 after his arrest, but the government dropped the charges, reportedly because he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

A few months later, another Miller, Kenneth, a Mennonite pastor in Virginia, also was charged with aiding in Isabella’s kidnapping. None of the Millers are related.

In 2012, a federal court jury in Vermont deliberated only four hours before finding Kenneth Miller guilty. His 27-month prison sentence was stayed pending his appeal.

Defense lawyers for Kenneth and Timothy Miller could not be reached to comment, and prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont and Buffalo declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the FBI and Interpol’s search for Lisa Miller continues.

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Parental Kidnapping – Va. mother faces kidnapping charges


September 29 , 2014

Source: charlestondailymail 

A Virginia woman wanted by police after allegedly kidnapping her three children was arrested in Kanawha County.

Lisa Ann Cantrell

State Police stopped Lisa Ann Cantrell, 50, of Pound, Va., late Saturday on the West Virginia Turnpike in Kanawha County. Cantrell was wanted for kidnapping her three children, a 17-year-old boy, and two girls, aged 12 and 9.

The Wise County (Va.) Sheriff’s Office issued information about a “possible parental child abduction” on their Facebook page over the weekend. The post identified Cantrell and displayed pictures of her and her three children. A description of her vehicle, a green Chevrolet Suburban with Virginia license plates, was also given in the post.

A State Police parkways dispatcher said the vehicle’s information was entered into the National Crime Information Center’s database. A license plate reader in a State Police cruiser picked up the SUV’s tags as it passed at about 10 p.m. Saturday on Interstate 77-64 and the trooper pulled the vehicle over, the dispatcher said.

Virginia deputies posted on Facebook Sunday that the three children were “safe” and that family members were en route to West Virginia to pick them up. Wise deputies were not available for comment Sunday.

Cantrell is being held without bond at South Central Regional Jail and is awaiting extradition to Virginia where she will face kidnapping charges.

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When Your Ex Emigrates With Your Children


August 4 , 2014

Source: separated dads

The modern world is getting smaller, with more and more people living and working abroad.

It’s no surprise that the number of international families is on the increase but what happens to the kids when these relationships break down and the mother wishes to return to their home country with the child? What rights does the father have?

children-parent

Your Rights

If both parents have parental responsibility for a child it is a criminal offence in the UK to emigrate with a child without the permission of the other parent or without an order of the Court. Parents have Parental Responsibility for children in the following circumstances:

  1. The Mother – always has PR
  2. The Father – if he was married to the Mother, or if he was named on the birth certificate and the child was born after 1st December 2003 or if there is a PR agreement stamped by the Court

Outcomes

There are 4 outcomes if one parent wants to take the child abroad to live permanently:-

  1. Permission refused by the Court and the Mother abandons her plans or the child moves to live with the Father
  2. The Mother and child emigrate with the Father’sagreement
  3. Lawful removal of the child by the Mother
  4. Unlawful removal of the child by the Mother

Outcome 1 is self-explanatory but let’s looks at the other 3 outcomes in more detail:

Outcome 2 – Emigrate with Father’s Agreement

Where the parents reach an agreement which permits one parent to move abroad with the child whist ensuring that they maintain a good relationship with the other parent. International travel is much cheaper and often parents agree a schedule of annual contact involving return trips to the UK in the school holidays and weekends and visits by the non-resident parent to the child’s new home. Other forms of contact can be agreed upon such as Skype, telephone, email and Face time.

 

In these circumstances it is always wise to apply to the Court to request an order in the agreed terms to prevent any problems further down the line. A court order may also be required by the immigration authorities if the proposed move is by a non-national who requires a Visa. Depending upon the Country where the child is going to be residing, it may be necessary to obtain a mirror order in the new state reflecting the terms of the English Court order. You cannot assume that Court Orders made here are enforceable abroad. If the move is to an EU country the order would be directly enforceable but unless the English court order expressly retains jurisdiction, it will pass to the new state after 3 months and in theory an application could be made in the new state to vary the agreed terms. If the new home is a signatory to the Hague Convention, the Central Authority in London can assist in enforcing a contact order abroad. If the new home is outside the EU and is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, for example Arab States and the Far East, retaining jurisdiction here or obtaining a mirror order is the best form of protection.

Outcome 3 – Lawful Removal of Child

Where parents cannot agree it is necessary for the parent wishing to remove the child to apply to the Court for permission to do so. If permission is granted, contact will also be ordered. This will then result in the lawful removal of the child. Depending on the child’s destination and whether that country would enforce the English Court order (as in EU Countries) it may be necessary to obtain a mirror order in the new home country to ensure contact is maintained. See above ” 2 .Agreement”

Outcome 4 – Unlawful Removal of Child

Where parents cannot agree and the parent wishing to leave simply takes the child without permission, this is parental child abduction. It is a criminal offence to remove a child from the UK without the permission of the other parent or order of the court (save for where the parent has a residence order and removal is for less than 28 days). If you suspect that your child has been taken abroad you will need to access specialist legal advice immediately. In some cases it is possible to stop a child leaving the country by notifying the ports and airports who will place the child’s details on a watch list. If the child has already left the UK, a lot will depend upon where they have gone and whether that country has an agreement with the UK to return wrongfully removed children. There are unfortunately circumstances where children are not returned which could result in the child losing its relationship with the other parent.

how-PAS-affects-children

If you are separated from your child’s mother and these issues arise for you it is important that you obtain specialist advice from a family lawyer with an international background which will enable you to consider the best way forward for you and for your child to ensure your relationship is maintained.

About the Author

This was a guest post written by Louise Halford, a family law Partner at Pannone LLP who specialises in child abduction.

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Parental Child Abduction – International Child Recovery Services


ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

The goal of ABP World Group international child recovery services is to locate, negotiate and recover your missing child. We can dispatch personnel to most locations in the world; we specialize in locating missing children up to ages 18. Areas of expertise: Parental abduction, Missing children, Kidnappings, Runaway children and Counseling.

Unfortunately in this day and time parental kidnapping happens and we are here to help you trough this difficult period. We are aware parental child abduction can be difficult to resolve, but we use professional operatives with the skills and expertise to help find a resolution.

We also provide:

• Executive protection
• Close protection high or low profile
• Surveillance
• Investigation
• Security consulting
• Medical services
• Anti kidnap logistics and planning
• Abducted and missing children recovery
• Missing person investigations
• Panic room / Safe room construction
• Risk Management

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Missing Mother, Daughter Found in Virginia; Mother Charged with Parental Child Abduction


February 20, 2014

Source: daggerpress.com

Harford County Sheriff’s detectives have now located the mother and 5 year-old daughter, the subject of an earlier news release, who left their home together on or about January 10, 2014 without telling anyone where they were going causing family members to report the disappearance to police describing the mother’s behavior as “out of character”.

American_Child

Amanda Deeann Mitchell, 29, of the 2900 block of Siwanoy Drive in Edgewood, was taken into custody without incident by the Fairfax County (VA) Police Department who advised Harford County Sheriff’s detectives they had also located the child at a local elementary school. Sanaa Bailey, 5, was evaluated and found to be in good health. There were no signs of abuse or neglect. The child will be returned to her biological father. Mitchell has been charged with one count of parental child abduction. She is currently incarcerated in Fairfax County pending an extradition hearing.

Detectives say Mitchell failed to drop the child off for scheduled visitation with the father on January 17th. Family members told police that Amanda has been known to stay in homeless shelters from time to time but her failure to allow visitation with the child’s biological father was atypical behavior. Mitchell has shared custody with the child’s father, Aaron Chester Bailey of Baltimore.

Sheriff’s Detective Tom Walsh said, “She [Amanda] had left the family home with the bare essentials and had taken the child with her”. He further explained that while police fully understood she is a custodial parent, her behavior was out of the norm for how people described her. Walsh would not go into detail as to how Fairfax County PD came to locate Mitchell suffice it to say detectives ran down numerous leads and shared information about Mitchell throughout the region.

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Clear, fair rules needed for international divorces


February 11, 2014

Source: Asahi.com

Globalization does not always bring about happy endings.

When an internationally married couple is going through a contentious divorce, in which country’s court of law should the dispute be resolved?

japanese_Child_Abduction

Currently, there is no clear rule on this matter. All the courts can do is to decide the jurisdiction depending on the case. This situation has long caused huge headaches for those involved.

Belatedly, Japan’s Justice Ministry has asked its advisory body, the Legislative Council, to come up with proposals on the issue. We hope the council will swiftly put together a set of easy-to-understand rules.

According to a survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, there were 16,000 divorces in Japan in 2012 involving a non-Japanese spouse. This is twice the figure of 20 years ago, and accounts for 7 percent of all divorces.

In the case of international divorces, the question of which country to seek legal recourse in is an important matter. Going through the legal process in a country with a foreign language and a foreign legal system is grueling work.

Even if the plaintiff is Japanese, there is no guarantee that the arbitration or trial can be held in Japan if the spouse resides in a foreign country. This is because consideration should be given to the spouse who would be the defendant in the case.

In Japan’s current legal system, the tentative basic rule is that court proceedings should be undertaken in the country of the defending spouse’s residence. There have been exceptions, however, when the defending foreign spouse is missing, for example. Japanese courts deal with such cases even if the defendant does not reside in Japan.

In some previous cases when the defendant was not in Japan, Japanese courts went ahead with legal proceedings on the grounds that the divorce approved by a court in the spouse’s country was invalid in Japan.

Japan_Child_Abduction

The individual situations of each divorce are so varied that setting uniform standards is a difficult process. This has long been considered an international conundrum since countries and cultures have different acceptance levels when it comes to divorce.

Unlike in Japan, where many couples divorce by agreement, divorce by trial is the usual procedure in a number of countries. Some countries basically do not allow divorce.

Given these factors, it would be inappropriate to create a system based only on Japan’s situation. A broad international perspective is necessary.

In recent years, parts of the European Union have attempted to establish common rules about jurisdiction of divorce court proceedings. Under these proposals, initial jurisdiction would be in the hands of the couple’s current country of residence, second jurisdiction would be in the country where the couple most recently lived together, and so on.

We need deeper discourse to decide what rules are appropriate for Japan. We would also have to contemplate sharing those rules with some countries.

The important thing is to establish standards that are as comprehensible and fair as possible to lighten the load of the parties involved and smooth their paths toward restarting their lives after divorce.

This is a cumbersome business, but the number of cross-border marriages and divorces will continue to grow. The endeavors of the legal system must not be left behind by changes in the real world.

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Prevent International Parental Child Abduction: Letter of Parental Authorization for Minors Traveling


January 30 , 2014

Source: gomexico

In order to prevent international child abductions, many countries require children who are traveling without their parents to present documentation that proves that the parents authorize the child to travel.

American_Child

In the past, it was an official requirement of the Mexican government that any child entering or exiting the country should carry a letter of permission from their parents, or of the absent parent in the case of a child traveling with only one parent.

In many cases the documentation was not asked for, but it could be requested by immigration officials.

Since January 2014, new regulations for children traveling to Mexico stipulate that foreign children who travel to Mexico as tourists or visitors for up to 180 days only need to present a valid passport, and are not required to present other documentation. However, Mexican children, including those holding dual citizenship with another country, or foreign children residing in Mexico who travel unaccompanied by either parent are required to show proof of their parents permission to travel. They must carry a letter from the parents authorizing travel into Mexico. The letter must be translated into Spanish and legalized by the Mexican embassy or consulate in the country where the document was issued. A letter is not required in the case of a child traveling with only one parent.

Mother_Abduct_Child

Note that these are the requirements of the Mexican immigration authorities. Travelers must also meet the requirements of their home country for exit and return.

Here is an example of a letter of authorization for travel:

 (Date)

I (parent’s name), authorize my child/children, (child/children’s name) to travel to (destination) on (date of travel) aboard Airline/Flight # (flight information) with (accompanying adults), returning on (date of return).

Signed by parent or parents
Address:
Telephone/Contact:

Signature/Seal of Mexican embassy or consulate

The same letter in Spanish would read:

(Date)

Yo (parent’s name), autorizo a mi hijo/a (child’s name) a viajar a (destination) el (date of travel) en la aerolinea (flight information) con (name of accompanying adult), regresando el (date of return).

Firmado por los padres
Direccion:
Telefono:

(Signature / Seal of Mexican embassy) Sello de la embajada Mexicana

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