By Guest Contributor, Judianne Cochran   |   April 5th, 2014

Important Custody Steps to Take to Avoid Child Abduction Overseas

Strong Custody Prevention Key In Avoiding International Child Abduction

Our guest contributor this week is Judianne Cochran a nationally recognized expert/consultant in the following disciplines: sex offender profiling; interstate and international parental abduction; interstate custody and parental alienation. She has testified in numerous Courts throughout Ohio and the country. Judi presently resides in Columbus, Ohio. This is a follow-up article to Parental Abduction: Prevention and Remedies posted by Judi on October 31, 2009.

custody child abductionThere have been many laws and treaties put in place in recent years to assist in the prevention of international abduction.  However, I have been seeing a new complacency in the family court system that has begun to ignore the need for strong prevention, thus further thwarting a parent’s ability to be involved with their child.  Judges in many jurisdictions have been ordering that the objecting parent cooperate in obtaining passports for their children so the foreign national parent can remove the child from the country, often to non-Hague signatory countries. Even though these issues have been addressed, the laws strengthened, and the public made increasingly aware of the dangers of allowing a child to be removed from the U. S., parents remain unaware of how to battle this new trend.  Recently, I have been involved in a case where the judge even ordered the American parent to remove the barriers put in place by the State Department.

Register Your Child with the State Department

If you are the parent of a child whose other parent is a foreign national, you must register your child with the State Department if you want to prevent abduction. By doing so, you will be instantly notified if the foreign parent attempts to obtain a passport for your child.  The alarming trend I have been seeing lately is for judges to make the judgment call that the foreign parent is credible and only wants a little vacation and will return the child.  I have been dealing with these cases for more than thirty years and have never heard a parent not make this claim.  Too many parents have allowed their child this “vacation”, only to discover that their child will never return to the United States.

Contact the Appropriate Foreign Consulate

If a foreign national parent is thwarted in the attempt to remove the child, be prepared to start having often ridiculous false allegations levied against you. That parent may also attempt to get passports or travel documents from his or her country of origin. So in addition to the prevention tips available through the US State Department, you should also make contact with the foreign consulate regarding the child’s American status, and  a custody order if one exists stating the fact that there is no permission for the child to obtain a US passport.  Also apprise the Consulate of the fact that the child is registered with the State Department Office of Children’s Affairs.  It can help to have a mirror custody order in the foreign country, although this is of minimal effect in non-Hague countries.

You should be aware from the outset that very often the foreign consulate will not cooperate, especially if it is a non-Hague country.  If the foreign national parent is able to obtain a passport from the foreign country, your ability to avoid the abduction is seriously compromised.  It helps if the child has all of the checks in place with the State Department, but exiting the US on a foreign passport cannot be controlled. These measures do not stop the parent from travelling, just not traveling with the child. There is a danger in allowing the Do Not Fly ban lifted even for domestic travel with the child.  The foreign parent will often seek this route as a test run of what happens at the airport, how easy or difficult it is to avoid problems, and will often request travel to a city that has a foreign consular office available.

Conclusion

It is unfortunate that many American parents with American-born children are faced with the need to be hyper-vigilant and make certain he has done everything possible in the way of prevention.  However, the end result of not being prepared is not just unfortunate, it is tragic.  If you are a parent with this situation, you need to make sure you have a skilled custody attorney who is well educated on this issue.  Do your homework and seek help from consultants, experts and agencies already highly involved and skilled in international custody abduction cases.  Do not wait until your child is missing and possibly lost to you forever.  You need to be educated and proactive, especially since some courts do not understand the dangers in essentially forcing a parent to relinquish his parental rights by aiding the foreign national parent to abduct the child.

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About The Author: Guest Contributor, Judianne Cochran

Custody Issues: How To Avoid International Child Abduction
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