Understanding Stages of Grief applied to Parents Affected by Parental Child Abduction / Alienation / Retention


June 23, 2016

Source: Medium.com

“The death of a child is indisputably one of the most incredibly horrible tragedies one can imagine. Whether by sudden accidental circumstance, or by a more lengthy cause as in illness, the loss of a child is undeniably painful to experience. Painful to the parents, parents to the family, and painful to anyone related to the child. Never knowing the laughter of that child again or the tears, the joys and the accomplishments is a pain no parent should ever have to endure, and yet it happens. No one might be to blame. It can just happen”. (Tim Line)


Imagine a similar pain and the same sense of loss, with one exception-the parent is very much aware that the child is alive.

Parental Alienation PAS

The effects of Parental Alienation, Parental Child Abduction and retention are very similar to the loss of a child in some other way. However, the bereavement cannot end.

This feeling of bereavement can also affect the child that an abducting/alienating parent claims to love and can have serious emotional scars that can remain for a long period of time – If not for a lifetime.

Yet, parental child abduction and parental alienation remain as silent abuses that the effects never seem to be fully understood unless you or your family have to cope with this trauma yourselves.

Even parents that are lucky enough to have any contact whatsoever with their children, Parental Alienation, where a custodial parent maliciously tries to destroy the relationship between the child and target parent, rips the innocent child from their arms slowly. They witness the suffering. They witness the effects but they feel powerless to do anything about it.

The very sad part of this is it is not unique. There are hundreds of thousands of children and parents affected by Parental alienation and also thousands of cases involving parental child abduction but it is only recently that law professionals are starting to sit up and take notice of the traumatic emotional damage that this can cause target families and children.

If you are a parent, spend a moment to look at your children and imagine what it would be like if you woke tomorrow morning to find that they are not there and you have no idea where they have been taken to or if you will ever see them again. Imagine the minefield of legal litigation required to locate and reunite with your children once they have been found to have been abducted abroad?

Imagine pleading for help from authorities, courts, family, friends and groups but they are powerless or reluctant to help to reunite you with your child and can even facilitate the abduction, alienation and retention by their inaction.

People find it very difficult to understand the effects on a target parent. Many feel that eventually, time should allow you to “get over it” and just carry on with life but it is not that simple.

Let us look at an extended Kübler-Ross model that tries to explain the stages of grieving and see how that can be applied to a parent who is retained from their children’s lives.

Stage 1: SHOCK AND DENIAL.

In many cases, a target parent can actually identify the signs that abduction and alienation might occur but they are often given false reassurances that this will not happen or is not happening by authorities and legal professionals. When it does, the initial trauma is one of shock and numbness. However, there is a belief that everybody around will be just as horrified at the situation and will do everything they can to find a resolution to return the child to the situation prior to abduction/retention

Stage 2: EMOTIONS ERUPT.

Unlike a bereavement resulting from death, the shock never really passes as a target parent fails to understand how the situation could have occurred and begins questioning people around them. One minute they were a loving parent sharing their children’s lives and the next, it is taken away from them, often through no or little fault of the affected parent. Emotions can overflow their usual boundaries. They are expressed in ways ranging from wrenching sobs to gentle tears.

sad child

The strongest try to look for a resolution quickly and place their trust in authorities, lawyers, courts and organisations to help them resolve the situation. These emotions heighten even further if heinous “tactics” are used by the other parent to achieve their alienating objectives such as false allegations. This stage in the grieving process is also without end.

Stage 3: ANGER.

Mixed with the hurt, many people feel angry. “How could the other parent do this to them?”, “Why aren’t people doing enough to help?”, in cases where false allegations are used as a mechanism to aliene and retain their child, “Why are the authorities listening to them? This is NOT me that they are talking about!” They sometimes want to retaliate. Although the anger is towards the other parent for their actions, it can also be transferred to other areas such as the lawyers and authorities for their apathy and inaction. The anger can also be misdirected at people closest to the target parent through their absolute despair of the situation and this can affect friendships, relationships and support. This anger one feels can reappear so once again is another stage in the process than can be without end

Stage 4: SICKNESS.

Often the body acts out the pain being felt through actual physical symptoms. Nausea, headaches, diarrhoea, extreme fatigue, lack of sleep are common. In some cases, panic attacks can occur that can be compared to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) especially in situation such as family court proceedings. Once again, as these litigation processes can be ongoing, so can recurrences of the sickness stage.

Stage 5: PANIC.

Along with a time of sickness and emotional upset, people begin to realise that they aren’t acting like themselves anymore. They begin to worry, wondering if they are becoming mentally ill. They frequently ask themselves “What is happening to me?”. From the outsiders point of view, this is often met with wrongful judgement. They can lose sight of the person they really are and just start to see the shell of the person that the target parent might be becoming without the help to keep them strong and focused. The longer it takes for resolution, the harder it is for the target parent to cope. Apathy often occurs in other aspects of the target parents lives that could affect their work and personal lives.

Stage 6: GUILT.

Personal guilt feelings build up as people wonder whether they are somehow to blame for the situation they find themselves in. They ask themselves if they could have done something to make it different…. “if only . . .”

Stage 7: DEPRESSION AND LONELINESS.

The pain of their loss often causes people to withdraw into themselves. As the depression deepens, friends and family find it harder to draw the person out, to talk them into participating in regular activities again. Many suffer detachment issues in their relationships with others. Mixed with the other stages that are still present in some form, without understanding of family and friends, it can appear as though the target parent does not WANT to be around people who care when it is, in fact, quite the opposite.

Stage 8: RE-ENTRY TROUBLES.

Once the effort is made to get back into the normal routine, the pain of loss makes it difficult to be as trusting and open as before the loss. Suspicion must be battled constantly. Friends and families are tested again and again.

Stage 9: HOPE.

Only the very strongest emotionally of the target parents can maintain this. They focus on areas that might be able to help others in a similar situation. They identify the failures in the system that do not seem to protect and try to do something about it. Some try to become advocates or write a book about their experiences. Raise awareness in whatever way they can. Some affected parents can never reach this stage as they feel defeated, betrayed and can even result in major depression or even suicide.

Stage 10: ACCEPTING AND AFFIRMING REALITY.

Sadly, a parent who continues to be subjected to alienation and retention can never fully reach this stage. Many are forced into a position where they have to box all of the emotions that they feel and “give up” on finding a solution as a means of self preservation. Although they do not give up on their love for their children, they give up hope of ever being a parent to that child again.


Conclusion

In conclusion to this short paper, it appears that when a child is retained, alienated and/or abducted the grieving processes begins but can NEVER end until there is resolution. Unfortunately, in many cases, this forced “living bereavement” goes without deterrent or accountability in the family courts or by authorities which continues to subject families to this abuse.

Follow our updates on Twitter and Facebook

Testimonials from our clients

profile pic.jpgdroppedImage_7TM

download (2)

ABP World Group™ Risk Management

Contact us here: Mail ( contact@abpworld.com )

Skype: abpworld

NOTE: We are always available 24/7

Gay couple’s international child custody battle to be ruled on by Supreme Court


December 4, 2015

Source: familylaw.co.uk

By: Simon Bruce, Farrer & Co

The Supreme Court will consider the complex issues of habitual residence, the definition of parenthood and the power of the English Court to make orders about British nationals resident overseas at an important hearing next week.

British_Airways_A380_300dpi_air-to-air_CG_9-07

The case, which was heard at the Court of Appeal in January and May 2015, has been expedited by the Supreme Court due to its significance both for the family involved and its repercussions for international family law in general.

It involves the family of a 7-year-old child (P) who was taken to live in Pakistan in February 2014 by her birth mother, one of a lesbian couple, after the couple’s separation. The woman ‘left-behind’ in England, who had been seeking shared residence of the child, then attempted to make P a ward of the English court and to return the child to England, on the basis that P was a British national. She also proceeded on the alternative basis that the child was habitually resident in England when she began proceedings under the Children Act.

Parental_Kidnapping_Pakistan

The High Court judge found that P was not habitually resident here on 13 February 2014 (albeit that she was probably not habitually resident in Pakistan at that point either) and in addition that the Court shouldn’t exercise the British national jurisdiction because the return of the child to England was not a sufficiently important issue to justify the exercise of wardship powers.

Pakistan’s attitude to homosexuality means effectively that the only forum to resolve the issue is England and Wales. The President of the Family Division noted in this case that there is widespread, indeed pervasive, societal and state discrimination, social stigma, harassment and violence against both gay men and women in Pakistan. The official view in Pakistan appears to be that same-sex relationships involve ‘abnormal sexual behaviour’. This would leave the appellant without recourse to the courts there to establish her relationship with the child.

The case was given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court who will consider it on 8 and 9 December 2015.

Two of the panel of five Supreme Court Justices are family specialists – Lady Hale, Deputy President of the Supreme Court, and Lord Wilson of Culworth.

Simon Bruce, the partner at Farrer & Co who acts for Reunite International Child Abduction Centre in its capacity as Interveners in the case said:

‘I am really pleased that the case was expedited to the Supreme Court, as there are issues of huge significance affecting increasing numbers of families becoming more internationally mobile. The top Court in the country has the chance to clarify areas of law with far-reaching impact, relating to:-

• psychological parenthood

• the children of same sex parents in jurisdictions where it is a crime to be gay

• the ability and the willingness of a state to make orders affecting its citizens, wherever in the world they may be.

This is especially important – and topical – in the light of today’s global fluidity of people’s lives.’

Reunite is the leading UK charity specialising in the movement of children across international borders. It is also the principal children’s charity in the UK dealing with parental abduction.

Reunite’s barristers, all of whom have been acting pro bono, are from the family law barristers’ chambers 1 King’s Bench Walk, Temple, London. They are specialists in this field, and have abundant experience in this kind of case.

They are Richard Harrison QCMadeleine Reardon (a deputy district judge), and Jenny Perrins.

The lawyers at Farrer & Co who are involved in this case are Simon BruceTessa Bray, and Aly Challoner.

Follow our updates on Twitter and Facebook

Ironboyzz-FacebookTwitter-Ironboyzz

profile pic.jpgdroppedImage_7TM

download (2)

ABP World Group™ Risk Management

Contact us here: Mail 

Skype: abpworld

NOTE: We are always available 24/7

Parental Abduction Spain – Walking across borders: Orihuela father’s fight to see his daughter


August 27, 2015

Source: euroweeklynews

“I HAVE always said that I would walk to see my child if I had to. So that is exactly what I intend to do.” 

Steven Monk-Dalton

That’s the determination of one parent to try and gain access to his daughter, and to raise the important awareness about parental child abduction.
Steven Monk-Dalton has now embarked on the walk of a lifetime; from Orihuela to London in a 44-day journey in support of UK charity Reunite International, which helps families affected by child abduction. 

Steven has been planning the Walk Across Borders challenge since February this year and set off from the Orihuela Court on Sunday August 23. His epic 1,082-mile walk will take him north through Spain and France on to the UK, finishing at the Royal Court of Justice, London, in early October where around 30 people will join him in a demonstration.

Already Steven has raised around €1,700 and had support along the start of his journey as Alison Shalaby from Reunite joined him for the first few days of the walk along with volunteer Michelle from the One Day Closer charity shop Steven set up in Villamartin Plaza.

Maurizio Rigamonti flew over from Italy to drive the support car and follow Steven. He had his child returned home to Italy from America via the Hague Convention but is still denied any access to his son. Steven hopes more will join him at the various stages as he plans to walk a marathon a day, and this weekend he should be crossing through and stopping off at La Torre, Landete, Libros, Caude and Monreal del Campo.

Steven is raising money for the charity having been one of the thousands of parents who contacted them for help and advice after his daughter was taken back to the UK by her mother without his consent. It has been five years since he has had any contact with her and she turns 10 this month as Steven is on the walk. He said he had fought for years through the courts and even hired a private detective in the UK to track her down so he could at least know where she was.

Whilst he said the walk was very much about making sure his little girl would one day know she was never forgotten or abandoned by her father, it was about raising awareness for each and every one of the parents and family members who do not get to see a child and how he believed the system had failed them: “I have tried to do everything the right way and under the correct jurisdiction but they let you down, the system is broken. There are failures in the system that allows parental abduction to occur without deterrent or accountability.”

Steven added: “How can ‘parents’ be so cruel as to play God with their children’s lives in this way? It is like a living bereavement.”

For more information on Steven’s cause and follow his challenge or to make a donation, visit his blog at http://walkacrossborders.blogspot.com.es/ or search Walk Across Borders on Facebook.

Follow our updates on Twitter and Facebook

Ironboyzz-FacebookTwitter-Ironboyzz

profile pic.jpgdroppedImage_7TM

ABP World Group™ Risk Management

Contact us here: Mail 

Skype: abpworld

NOTE: We are always available 24/7

“My husband stole my kids – it could happen to you”


August 11, 2015

Source: closeronline.co.uk

Having your child taken is every mother’s worst nightmare.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 19.02.22

But, for Lisa it became a reality when her estranged husband took their two children 4,000 miles away to Kansas, America and refused to bring them home.

Lisa, 42, fought to get them back and, eight months later, they were reunited after an American court order forced their dad, Luke*, 36, an American citizen, to return them to the UK.

In February this year Lisa also won full parental rights – meaning her children would never again be able to leave the country with their father.

Now, Lisa’s children, Abigail, 11, and Matthew, eight, live with her in Batley, West Yorkshire, while their dad has moved back to the states and is allowed two Skype calls with them a week.

KIDNAPPED GIRL FOUND ALIVE IN MEXICO 12 YEARS AFTER ABDUCTION

Lisa says: “I didn’t know if I was ever going to see my children again. I felt so helpless.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 19.02.43

“We were having some marriage problems and Luke suggested taking the children to the States for a holiday to see family.

“I was a bit worried about being apart from them for a while, but I never imagined he’d try to keep them there.

“The pain of not knowing when I was going to see them again was indescribable.

“At first I was in shock, then I panicked, but I knew I had to keep it together to get them back, so I put every scrap of my energy into doing that.

Thankfully they’re home now, but it’s been a nightmare and I will never forgive Luke.”

Worryingly, Lisa isn’t alone in her struggle.

In the UK a child is kidnapped by a parent or family member every 12 hours.

A spokesperson from Reunite – a charity that helps with parental child abduction – explains: “We’re seeing more and more children abducted by parents because of mixed nationality relationships.

“When these relationships break down, parents want to take their child back to their home country.

“It can be difficult to bring a child home because a parent has to deal with two different countries and legal systems. A further complication is that the abducting parent has rights over the child too.”

Follow our updates on Twitter and Facebook

Ironboyzz-FacebookTwitter-Ironboyzz

profile pic.jpgdroppedImage_7TM

ABP World Group™ Risk Management

Contact us here: Mail 

Skype: abpworld

NOTE: We are always available 24/7

My partner abducted my child: the parents left behind


September 23 September 2013

Source: Theguardian.com

Last year alone, more than 500 children were abducted from the UK by one of their parents. We speak to some of the mothers and fathers left behind

Louise Monaghan with daughter May in Cyprus

 

Louise Monaghan with her daughter, May, in Cyprus: ‘We’ll change our names, move. If you want to get lost, you can.’ Photograph: Eirini Vourloumis for the Guardian

When Louise Monaghan rang her former husband’s phone, her worst fears were confirmed: it went straight to an international ring tone. He had fled the country with their six-year-old daughter, May. The police in Cyprus, where Louise lived, didn’t seem overly interested; it was just another domestic that would sort itself out. Nor did the government back home in Ireland: no, they couldn’t arrange an emergency passport for May without her father’s signature. Louise protested that this was the man who had absconded with her daughter. Sorry, she was told, rules are rules.

She had been divorced from Mostafa for less than a year. During their seven-year relationship, he regularly beat her; on one occasion, when he punched her unconscious, he thought he had killed her. Eventually, she found the courage to press charges, and then begged the judge for leniency; Mostafa had told her he would have her and May killed if he went to prison. He was given a suspended sentence, and his access to May continued, three days a week, three hours a day. Louise says May hated her time with him. She had panic attacks and developed trichotillomania, a compulsion to pull out your own hair. “She had a big bald spot.”

After they divorced, he stalked Louise, hiding in bushes beneath her apartment, following her in his car, terrifying her. She warned her daughter as gently as she could. She never used the word kidnap, nor did she suggest that May’s father was a bad man, but she did say there was one thing her father wasn’t allowed to do. “I told her time and time again, if your father ever takes you to an airport or a ferry, please scream and shout and go to the nearest adult and say, can you please call my mama? She knew my number off by heart. We practised it all the time. So when he took her, I thought, please God, do what I said.”

The phone continued to ring out. Eventually, Mostafa answered and calmly told her they were about to cross the border into war-torn Syria, where he was from. “I said, ‘Do you have May?’ and he said, ‘Of course I have May. We’re going to live in Syria.’ I said, ‘Can I speak to her?’ When she came on the phone, she was so distraught I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. I said, ‘May, speak slowly, where have you been?’ And she said, ‘In a big shopping mall, Mummy.’ I said, ‘May, were there planes there?’ And she started crying and saying, ‘Yes, Mama.'”

The story that followed is the stuff of thrillers. Indeed, Louise’s book,Stolen: Escape From Syria, is being made into a film. But there is nothing thrilling about the way she recounts it. She crossed a heavily guarded Syrian border, fooled Mostafa into thinking she still loved him, was beaten, starved and held captive by him, betrayed by the people-smugglers she had paid to rescue them, and then escaped with her daughter across the mountains into Lebanon through bomb attacks and sniper fire.

Two years on, Louise is back living in Cyprus. May is at school and life is returning to a kind of normality. We meet in Dublin, at her sister Mandy’s home. May is a pretty eight-year-old with long, dark hair and an uncertain smile. I look at her and find it hard to comprehend what she has been through. Perhaps the only giveaway is her silence.

Louise is undergoing intense psychotherapy. She talks about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child, how introverted she became, the death of her mother in a car crash, her first marriage to a man who was more friend than lover. She is trying to put things into context, she says, explaining how she ended up with a man like Mostafa.

In her late 20s, she left Ireland for Cyprus and became a successful travel sales consultant, before setting up a hair salon. She drove two cars, had a good income and a great circle of friends. Then she met Mostafa. “I don’t like to say his name,” she says quietly. She seems embarrassed, ashamed even, that she fell in love with him.

“He was a good-looking guy, let’s be honest about it,” Mandy says as her sister struggles. “He came over from Cyprus to Ireland, to the local pub, and you should have seen the carry-on from my friends.”

“Even after the kidnapping, friends said to me, ‘It’s such a shame, because he was a gorgeous-looking man,'” Louise says.

From the start Mostafa was controlling, but she told herself she was lucky to have a man who cared for her so passionately. Yes, she was aware that they came from very different cultures – she was Irish Catholic, he was Syrian Sunni Muslim – but that wasn’t going to get in the way of love. “Then I married him and I became his property.”

After the abduction, Mandy flew to Cyprus to be with Louise and work out a rescue plan. They flew to southern Turkey and drove to Hatay, a province bordering Syria, where Louise put on her hijab and left Mandy. On 12 September 2011, five days after Mostafa had abducted May, she walked into Syria, passing thousands of people fleeing in the opposite direction. When Louise was reunited with May, she learned her daughter had been beaten on to the plane. “On her arms, her thighs. She still had bruises where he grabbed her arms.”

Louise and May spent five weeks in Syria. Often, Mostafa would leave her locked in a dark room and take May with him. “I presume it was to see his parents. I think he did it to torture me, to show me he was the boss. I thought I’d never see her again.”

She lost a stone. Mandy says that when they came back to Ireland, May looked even worse than her mother. “She had these terrible black rings under her eyes.” And now? “She doesn’t like talking about it. She very rarely mentions it. She might twitch at something.” Despite this, Louise says May told her therapist she still loves her father.

“You know what?” Mandy says, out of nowhere. “I haven’t read the book.” She’s happily buttering a piece of toast in the kitchen, and the next second is in floods of tears. “It’s just too horrific. I hate to think they went through all that.” Now Louise is crying, too.

A month after Louise and May returned home, Mostafa was apprehended trying to escape Syria over the Turkish border. He was jailed for two weeks and was due to be extradited to Cyprus on charges of abduction. But Syria was mid-collapse, and he was let go. There is currently an international warrant for his arrest.

It is almost impossible to get accurate statistics on parental child abduction. Last year, Foreign and Commonwealth Office statisticsrevealed that there had been an 88% increase in the number of parental child abduction cases it had dealt with in less than a decade – from 272 in 2003/4 to 512 in 2011/12. These figures almost certainly understate the problem because they are based only on official police investigations. Although the common perception is that more men than women abduct children, in 2011 Reunite, a charity that supports victims of international parental child abduction, found that 70% of parental abductions in the UK were by women, most of whom had followed their partner to the UK and returned home when the relationship soured.

Neil Winnington

 

Neil Winnington: ‘All I can do is leave a trail for her online – films, songs, blogs, poems – and hope she follows it.’ Photograph: Shaw + Shaw for the Guardian

If you look on Myspace, there is a beautiful video of a red-haired two-year-old at the seaside, eating ice-cream, bouncing on a trampoline, making sandcastles with her father. The film was made in May 2008, two months before Neil Winnington’s daughter Emily was taken to Russia by her mother. He was assured they would return to Wrexham after the holiday, but he didn’t believe her. After all, Neil claims, she had previously threatened to take Emily back to Russia for good, saying that if he didn’t give her half his earnings, she would never allow him to visit. “She had said she’d go to the Russian courts and have my name removed from the birth certificate. Emily wouldn’t even know she had a British father.”

Neil doesn’t have a clue what Emily looks like today, or where she’s living: “25 September is five years to the day since I saw her.” He assumes she wouldn’t recognise him. All he can do, he says, is leave a trail for her online, in the form of films, songs, blogs, poems and photos, and hope that one days she follows it.

As with most cases of abduction, Neil’s story is one-sided. His former wife (he doesn’t say her name; she is “Emily’s mother”) is unavailable for comment because she has disappeared; he assumes they are both still in Russia, but doesn’t know. The British government hasn’t been much help either, he says: “Three years ago, the Christmas and birthday presents all started coming back with ‘incorrect address’ marked on them. When the cutbacks started to bite at the Foreign Office, any attempt to contact Emily was stopped. When they did send somebody for a consular visit, Emily’s mum refused to let them even take photographs for me.”

Although Russia has just signed up to the 1996 Hague convention, which states that abducted children should be returned to their habitual country of residence, it will consider only retrospective cases that occurred within the previous year. “So the estimated 150 children, including Emily, who were abducted to Russia prior to that will get no help,” Neil says. He doesn’t know who, or where, to turn to now.

Neil says it’s ironic, really. He has travelled all over the world as a TV producer, but met Emily’s mother in Birkenhead, just a few miles from his parents’ home. She returned to Russia to give birth to Emily, and that’s when things started to go wrong. “I think she had postnatal depression and her mother started sowing seeds of doubt.” The marriage fell apart when he discovered she had been having an affair.

After Emily was taken, Neil stopped working. He got into £20,000-worth of debt, lost his home and car, and stopped going out. “I had a complete nervous breakdown. To be honest, I’ve just learned to control it. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. Even if Emily came back tomorrow… I’ve spoken to other parents: they expect their children to be snatched again. It never, ever leaves you.” His speech is broken. “I was a recluse for two years. I couldn’t face seeing children. If a child cries – even to this day, in a supermarket – it brings me to tears.”

Like the other parents I speak to, Neil knows his abduction statistics by heart. “In 2011, Reunite received calls about 512 different cases, involving 700-plus children. And the numbers are rising each year. It was 300 the year Emily was abducted.”

Why is the number rising? “If I’m blunt about it, the growing media and political antipathy towards foreigners is driving a lot of people apart. It gave Emily’s mother ammunition to say they weren’t wanted here.” Was there any truth in that? “There are always people who’ll look for a reason.”

He says he is in a slightly better state now. He has just started a new job, is campaigning for Reunite, and has convinced himself that one day Emily will turn up on his doorstep.

Has he been in a relationship? “I’m staying single for the rest of my life,” he says forcefully. “It would be a betrayal of Emily. If she came back and found me with another family, I don’t think I could forgive myself.” But he could have another family and still love her? “No, because she is what I always wanted. If I’d had another family, it would have meant that I’d stopped fighting.”

Catherine Meyer

 

Catherine Meyer: ‘My boys are always small in my dreams. They’re with me and either taken away or in danger.’ Photograph: Lydia Goldblatt for the Guardian

On the surface, Catherine Meyer says life couldn’t be better. She is married to a wonderful man (Christopher Meyer, the former ambassador to Germany and Washington), she has two grown-up boys of whom she is hugely proud and a successful career in the City behind her – and yet the past still haunts her.

It is 19 years since her two sons, Alexander and Constantin, then nine and seven, were taken by her former husband. Strictly speaking, they were not abducted: they were wrongfully retained. The boys had gone to visit their father in Germany, and he refused to let them return.

We meet at Catherine’s beautiful London town house, which is currently being overhauled; the one room that is operational serves as the office from which she runs Pact, a charity she set up to help victims of abduction. Like Louise Monaghan, she has written a book about her experience, called They Are My Children, Too. Left-behind parents often feel the need to chronicle their experience, partly for themselves and partly in the hope that their children will be able to make sense of it one day.

A slight, elegant woman, Catherine looks both much younger, and occasionally older, than her 60 years. She is in tears before her first sentence is out. Half-French, half-Russian, she grew up largely in Britain, and spent time in America and Africa. She was 29 and one of only three women working on London’s Stock Exchange when she went on a road trip to visit her sister in the south of France. At a service station, a man smiled at her. Then she saw him at another service station, and it turned out they were visiting the same place. “He was very good-looking, German, blond, blue eyes. He was a doctor, did something useful. I thought, wow!”

They moved to London and married. When he became homesick, she agreed to move to Germany for two years. They lived with his mother in the small town of Verden, near Bremen. Two years became seven, and Catherine decided she’d had enough. She returned to London in 1993, where she was awarded custody of the boys; the agreement was that they would spend the school holidays with their father, which is how it worked out, until the following year, when she received a 21-page letter from him. “He said, ‘It’s not me, it’s the children, they are begging to stay with me. I’m not doing this against you, I’m doing this to be nice to the children.’ He was already preparing his legal case. And the whole world crashes.”

As with Louise, every date is imprinted on Catherine’s mind. “I said, ‘If you don’t send them back on 28 August, I will consider this wrongful retention under article 3 of the Hague convention.'” Alexander and Constantin were made wards of court, and an order was made for them to return to the UK; but the local German court successfully argued that the children were victims of racism in Britain, and that the “children have decisively opposed such return”. Over the next 10 years, Catherine saw her children half a dozen times, for a few hours on each occasion; in all, she says, she spent 24 hours with them. She dedicated her life to their return. She spent more than £200,000 on lawyers, and lost everything. She explored every avenue, analysed 22 other cases of abduction in Germany, examined every inconsistency in the legal arguments. In 1997, four years after losing her children, she lobbied Christopher Meyer, then ambassador to Germany, for help. “He always says, ‘This poor woman came in to try to get some help, and I knew I couldn’t help her. So I did the second best thing and married her.'” She smiles.

She believes the boys became convinced that she had abandoned them. One day she took a plane to Germany and waited outside their school. When they saw her, they ran in the opposite direction and got into a car. “The first time I saw Alexander, at the second court hearing, he greeted me by hitting me.” She aims a punch at her own stomach to illustrate.

How did this change her? “I lost my job and by now I was weighing 45 kilos. I wasn’t eating and I couldn’t sleep because my hip bones were so painful, sticking out.” She looks into her coffee, then directly at me. “I used to be quite amusing, actually, when I was young. Now I cannot stay still – I have to be busy. That’s a sign I see in a lot of parents. They become workaholics, or depressives. I have two people who committed suicide, and one ended up in the loony bin. You can feel sorry for yourself and go deeper and deeper into yourself. Or you can work and work.”

The most painful loss, she says, was physical. “Touching them. Feeling them. I constantly had nightmares. Still have them. They are always small in dreams, they’re with me in London, and they’re either being taken away or they’re in danger.”

How did she win her case? She didn’t, she says: “There was an angel.” A man living near her boys in Germany heard her story and wrote to her. He got in touch with Alexander, told him his mother still loved him and was desperate to see him. He passed on her address. Aged 19, Alexander visited his mother in London for the first time in 10 years. Constantin followed soon after. “I was incredibly nervous. How will they react? What will they think of me? Shall I speak French, shall I speak English? We sat on the tube, looking at each other rather than saying anything.”

Alexander is now 28 and a maths PhD student in Berlin. Constantin is 26 and studying to be a doctor in Hamburg. They visit regularly. Do the boys consider they were abducted? “We don’t talk about this… Possibly not. They are boys, and boys tend to look forward rather than back.” Does she think they will want to talk about it? “Yes. With Alexander it has come up. We’ve had some conversations and he’s said he doesn’t really want to go there, but maybe one day he will.”

Alexander was nine when he was taken, just old enough for his mother to start to see who he might grow into. Constantin was still a baby in her eyes. “He was a gorgeous little blond boy when he left, and suddenly he’s a young man with hair on his arms. It’s difficult. You’ve missed 10 years of your child growing up, very formative years. We’re rebuilding.”

She attributes the dramatic increase in the number of parental abductions to an increase in international marriages, a greater number of divorces and the fact that today’s family courts are less clear cut when it comes to child custody; in the past, it was assumed they would stay with their mother. The biggest problem, she says, is lawyers with a financial interest in prolonging divorce conflict, and parents who think of their children as possessions. “The trouble is, parents think they have rights to their children. You produce them, they didn’t ask to be in the world, the only thing you do have is responsibility to raise them properly and give them the love they need.”

I ask if she is capable of feeling joy these days. “Seeing my children is wonderful. Christopher says my face lights up when I see them.” She pauses. “I used to say I’d like to just drill a hole in my head and take some of this stuff out, this anxiety, this hyperness.” She still feels that? “Oh, yes.”

Rachel Neustadt

 

Rachel Neustadt: ‘They don’t remember English any more. My son couldn’t remember how to say goodnight.’ Photograph: Lydia Goldblatt for the Guardian

Rachel Neustadt says she’s lucky. Then again, luck is relative. Nine months ago, her ex-husband abducted her two oldest boys, Daniel Jakob, seven, and Jonathan, five. We meet in early September, a few days before she is due to fly to Russia to fight in court for their return.

Six months after the boys were taken, in June 2013, Russia signed up to the 1996 Hague convention. The earlier 1980 convention had ruled that countries had to individually ratify with each other for a child to be returned to the country from which they were taken, but the 1996 model states that countries need only to have signed up for it to be applied. The old convention would not have helped Rachel; the new one should see her children return. Hers will be a test case, the first to use the new legislation for an abduction from the UK to Russia.

Rachel and Ilya met at a wedding in Vienna. They had much in common: both were orthodox Jews, with Belarusian family; both had been brought up in a number of countries and were economists. He was studying for a PhD, she was working for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. They married, had two boys and raised them bilingual, speaking English (she is American) and Russian. They married in Germany, lived in Switzerland, then moved to England. Over time, she says, Ilya became unreasonable and abusive. In what way? “Almost every way.”

In 2011, after eight years of marriage, Rachel decided enough was enough. She was pregnant with their third child when she filed for divorce. She says she tried to make the split as amicable as possible. Legally, she didn’t have to allow him to take the boys on holiday, but she wanted to normalise the relationship. He suggested taking the boys to see his brother in Russia. She knows that should have rung an alarm bell: he had not been back to Russia for two decades. He then suggested getting the boys a Russian passport because it was cheaper than a visa, and that meant they would be able to visit their cousins every year. “I went to the embassy and signed all the papers to get them Russian passports.” She shakes her head in disbelief. She gave the trip her blessing, and the boys never came back.

This is the most common circumstance in which children are abducted by a parent, during contact time. Astonishingly, Rachel says, if the left-behind parent has given the other parent permission to take a child on holiday, it is not even a crime; “wrongful retention” is a civil offence. As with most male abductors, Ilya has been helped by his mother; she has moved from Germany to Russia to help bring up the boys.

Why did he take them? “He said they’re his kids, he brought them to England, he can take them whenever he wants.”

He didn’t see the boys as their children? “Well, he’s always seen them as his possessions. He doesn’t really see them as humans with rights and feelings. He said we live in Russia now, and we don’t need anything else. The kids don’t need a mother, they don’t need you. I’m their mother and their father. He’s tried to coax me into bringing our third son to Russia to see his brothers, so he can abduct him, too.”

At first, Rachel says, Ilya allowed her a weekly phone call, but he would keep her waiting for hours, and then the calls tailed off. If she said anything personal or loving to the boys, the line would go dead. The last time she spoke to them, she felt they were no longer used to regular conversation. “They’ve lost a lot of their ability to communicate. They don’t remember English any more. Their father said to Jonathan, ‘Say goodnight to your mum in English’ and he couldn’t even remember how to say the words.”

The walls of her north London home are covered with mementoes of the boys – a crayoned drawing with the words “I like crackers” by Jonathan, pictures of the union and Israeli flags, a certificate Daniel Jakob won for a spelling competition, photographs of them dressed up as sword-wielding Normans.

Rachel is composed until I ask what such an experience does to a parent. She swallows between half-sentences and takes deep breaths. “Most mothers, when they put their kids to bed and they see them sleeping, they hover for a moment. Before you walk out of the room for the night, you tend to wait, because you know you’re going to miss them until morning. So it’s that feeling multiplied by 24 hours a day. I’m just waiting…” She is barely audible now. “It’s horrific.” Every parent I meet cries in the same way: mid-conversation, without warning, silently, uncontrollably.

The days are worse than the nights, Rachel says. “That’s when you’re constantly cleaning chins and tying shoes and doing homework. All the stuff you do every second with kids.” But she says the overwhelming feeling is not one of missing the boys: it is of panic that they might be damaged, and horror that she has failed to protect them.

She sleeps four hours a night, if she’s lucky, between 3am and 7am. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling it a night when I know if I did a couple more things I might be more successful in bringing them home.” How does she get through the days? “I’m very busy working for them. I don’t have much time. I try not to distract myself with emotions, because I have a job to do. Paperwork to file, phone calls to make. It is a full-time job. If people ask me, I say I’m a full-time student of international abduction law.” She allows herself a rare smile.

Has this changed her as a person? “Yes. In many ways, actually. My ex was unreasonable in so many ways, and I thought that if I just kept being reasonable, he’d come round. Now I think what I did was naive. I guess, in an abusive relationship, it’s called enabling behaviour. Ultimately, I realised it’s up to me to defend the interests of the family and not allow someone like him to destroy us.”

I ask if I can see the boys’ bedroom. “Sure,” she says. Her mother, who has come over from America to support her, is in there playing with her baby son, Meyer, and a toy bus. There is a double bed and a single bed. Rachel points to the double. “Daniel Jakob likes this bed because he rolls about in his sleep.”

“Yes, he does!’ his grandma says, laughing.

What have the past nine months been like for her, the boys’ grandmother? Her face collapses and tears roll down her cheeks; she ushers my tape recorder away.

We play with the bus, Rachel sings London Bridge to Meyer and calm is restored. Well, I say, hopefully the boys will be back soon. Rachel’s mother blinks back her tears. “They will be… they will be!” she says.

Back in Dublin, Louise Monaghan says that, while it is wonderful to have May back, the family are not yet at peace. After their escape, Mostafa rang her sister Mandy and promised he would track down Louise and May.

“Even now, not knowing where he is, you’re still living in danger, still sleeping with one eye open,” Mandy says.

Where do they think he is?

Mandy: “Hopefully he’s died. I know that’s not nice.”

Louise: “In my heart, I think he got out. He has family who love him in Dubai and Qatar.”

How does she feel when Mandy says she hopes he’s dead? “We’ve had that discussion. I have mixed feelings. My overriding feeling is I want peace. When I heard that he had been arrested and was being flown back to Cyprus, my biggest fear was that, if he was languishing in a Cypriot prison, I would have to get out of here because he would organise for me to be killed. I have no doubt about that.”

The family are planning a fresh start. Louise and May do not believe they are safe in Cyprus, nor Mandy and her family in Ireland. They will move together to a new country, as yet undecided. “New identity,” Louise says. “Change our appearance, change our names, move somewhere else, whatever. If you want to get lost, you can get lost.”

Just before going to press, I receive an email from Rachel Neustadt in Russia. While Ilya has argued in court that the boys are frightened of London and do not want to live with their mother, the court has ruled that they should be returned to the UK: a landmark decision. Ilya has 15 days to appeal. Rachel’s relief is palpable, as is her fear. “I wish I could hold my sons in my arms right now, but it is still unclear how to gain access to them. Today is Daniel Jakob’s half-birthday – he’s seven and a half. We have not reached the end of this nightmare, but today’s decision was crucial. I have no idea, nor do I want to imagine, how much longer this might take. I suspect we have a difficult road ahead of us.”

Follow our updates on Twitter and Facebook

Visit our website here: www.abpworld.com

profile pic.jpg

ABP World Group Risk Management

Contact us here: Mail 

Skype: abpworld

NOTE: We are always available 24/7

1-800-847-2315 US Toll free Number
0-808-189-0066 UK Toll Free Number
800-11-618        Norway Toll Free Number

Worldwide International Number: +31-208112223

Worldwide 24/7 Emergency Number: +34 633 374 629

Countries around the world honor International Missing Children’s Day on May 25


May 25 , 2013

International Missing Children’s Day on May 25

To commemorate International Missing Children’s Day, law enforcement and non-governmental organisations across four continents are holding events to raise awareness about the need for collaboration and a coordinated response to help protect children from abduction and going missing.

fighting-missing-children2

They are part of the Global Missing Children’s Network – a program of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) – which helps bring attention to the vulnerability of children who are missing and abducted.

It’s a problem facing every country and it needs the attention of law enforcement and government officials around the world.  It is estimated that at least 8 million children worldwide go missing each year or 22,000 a day. Unfortunately, many countries do not view it as a priority and thus don’t have appropriate mechanisms in place to recover missing children who are at high risk of being exploited into trafficking and prostitution. Every country should implement policies and legislation to tackle the issue and protect children’s right to grow up in a safe environment. This will require coordinated efforts between all sectors from law enforcement agencies, government, and non-governmental agencies to private industry.

Arizona_Missing_Girl_Carr_t618

It is also important to teach children how to stay safe and inform them of risks they may encounter. To achieve this, adults should take the time to provide children with the tools they need to recognise danger and to talk with them about specific ways to stay safe. ICMEC, through the Global Network, has developed prevention tips to help parents, guardians and other adults discuss safety with children. These tips are available in 10 different languages.

Each year, since 1983, May 25 has been commemorated to remember children who are still missing, children who have been reunited with their families, and to help bring this global issue to the attention of government and society.

 

Follow our updates on Twitter and Facebook

profile pic.jpg

ABP World Group Risk Management

Contact us here: Mail

NOTE: We are always available 24/7

(646) 502-7443 United States

069 2547 2471 Germany

020 3239 0013 United Kingdom

01 442 9322 Ireland

031-753 83 77 Sweden

Parental Child Abduction – Organisations for Left Behind Parents


February 24, 2013

By Martin Waage, ABP World Group Ltd.

happychild

Knowledge and support is needed when the other parent abducts your child/children. There are many organisations run by parents of abducted children, that can provide assistance and counselling and give answers on what to do in the critical first hours, days and weeks. They will also be able to help you find a experienced lawyer that specialises in International Child Abduction Cases.

This is a few of them:

Bachome ( United States)

Reunite ( United Kingdom)

CRN Japan ( United States)

Bring Sean Home Foundation ( United States)

Bortført.no ( Norway) 

Bortført ( Denmark)

Australians With Abducted Children ( Australia)

iCHAPEAU Association ( Canada)

SBN Saknade Barns Närverk ( Sweden)

Please let us know, if there are other organisations you think should be on this list.

Follow our updates on Twitter and Facebook

One key to ABP World Group`s successful recovery and re-unification of your loved one is to use all necessary means available

Contact us here: Mail

NOTE: We are always available 24/7

U.S Phone Number: (646) 502-7443

UK Phone Number: 020 3239 0013

German Phone Number: 069 2547 2471

Or you can call our 24h Emergency phone number: +44 20 3239 0013

qrcode.11947504