First and foremost, any parent that has a child traveling abroad should consider utilizing the I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form, which has been hailed by the international legal community as a critical abduction prevention tool.
Warning Signs of International Parental Child Abduction
There are no fool-proof warning signs that your spouse or ex-spouse is thinking of taking your child across international borders, with or without your permission and knowledge. However, there are in fact many signs and signals that can provide you with insight that your spouse or former spouse is intending to abduct with your child.
Trust your instincts and do not bury your head in the ground and think abduction will not happen to you. It is a mistake tens of thousands of parents once made.
If you believe international parental child abduction is in process, immediately contact local and national law enforcement, and, immediately contact the United States Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues Abduction Prevention Unit.
If you have reason to believe that your spouse is contemplating the abduction of your child, you should immediately contact a qualified lawyer familiar with international parental child abduction to immediately discuss legal options available to you and your child. You should also immediately contact the United States Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues Abduction Prevention Unit. In addition, you should contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and open an abduction prevention case. You may also contact the I CARE Foundation to obtain additional information on abduction prevention and to receive an attorney referral of a qualified lawyer familiar with abduction prevention litigation.
You may need to file an ex parte (an Emergency without notice filing) motion to the court of jurisdiction where the child lives, seeking court intervention prior to when the abduction or wrongful retention occurs. Under most laws, the judge will have to hear your application so long as you present enough strong and credible evidence that your spouse or ex-spouse is planning to illegally take your child across state or international borders or intending to travel abroad with consent but may have no intent of returning the child to their country of habitual residency.
The following are a list of international parental child abduction warning signs. Each abduction case is unique so please consult with a qualified attorney to understand risk factors specific to your circumstances.
- The most obvious warning sign is if the other parent communicates in any way that they have intent or a desire to remove the child of the relationship out of the country. In most instances, if the other parent threatens you with the idea that they are going to abduct your child, the fact is that in most cases, the abduction is already planned and may be in progress.
- The majority of international parental child abductions originate when a marriage or partnership created between two individuals from two different countries occurs. The reality is that failure amongst multinational partnerships is high. Often, when one of these relationships fails and there is a child involved, the parent living in a foreign country may want to return to their country of origin, and when they do, they nearly always want to bring the child of the failed relationship with them. It should be exceptionally noted, as stated earlier, that often parents planning abduction will act with trickery in order to have the targeted parent not have concern over abduction.
- The vast majority of international child abductions occur by a parent who is determined to cause hardship and harm to the other parent. The instrument that they use in order to cause this harm is the child or children of the marriage. A significant number of leading therapist from around the world have stated in numerous reports that revenge is the primary and leading reason why one parent will try to end the other parent’s relationship with their own child. Therefore, if you are involved with a person who has jealous or revengeful tendencies, you must be aware that these characteristics are common in the vast majority of would-be parental child abductors.
- If your spouse or former spouse has in the past used the child of your marriage or relationship to cause you harm, pain, and suffering, or, has tried to control and manipulate your actions, then your concern should be magnified ten-fold. If the same individual has family members in another country or has lived in another country and has expressed a desire or threat to move there with your child, your concern should be magnified one-hundred fold.
- If there is evidence of previous abductions, disappearances, or threats to abduct the child by your spouse or ex-spouse, these indicators demonstrate that any new abduction threat is real and in more likelihood already planned.
- If your spouse or ex-spouse has citizenship in another country and/or has strong emotional or cultural ties to their country of origin.
- A desire or intent by your spouse or ex-spouse to travel with the child to their own home country of origin with or without you. As stated earlier, it appears this is the most prevailing way a child is illegally abducted abroad. Often, the taking parent tricks their target into allowing travel, or is capable of fooling a court over their true intent. This is why the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form must always be used during any type of international travel regarding a child.
- Unexplainable removal of cash deposits and diminished assets, or unexplainable increases in credit card or bank debt.
- Concealment of new credit cards or bank debt.
- Concealed, hidden, and abrupt communication with individuals or family members living in a foreign country.
- Concealed, hidden, and abrupt communication with a lawyer.
- Frequent previous trips with child to a foreign country without other parent.
- No strong ties to a child’s home state including having no or limited assets, having no or limited job prospects, having no or few friends or family members, and having strong cultural difficulties with the child’s home country.
- Strong foreign support network.
- No financial reason to stay.
- Possible use of the child as a pawn in order to gain access to non-joint assets.
- Engaged in planning activities such as quitting job; selling home; terminating lease; closing bank accounts or liquidating assets; hiding or destroying documents; or securing a passport, a birth certificate, or school medical records.
- A history of marital instability, lack of cooperation with the other parent, domestic violence, or child abuse.
- An announcement of an unexpected trip to another country with the child.
- The taking of easily transportable high-valued items such as jewelry upon departing to another country.
- Adamant unwillingness to leave the child behind with you while spouse travels to a foreign country.
- Shipping of personal items to a foreign country, including those ordered from a vendor that are directly shipped abroad.
- A past tendency of your spouse or ex-spouse to relocate and live abroad.
- If your spouse or ex-spouse has ties to another country and makes a false police complaint against you concerning conduct against them or the child, you should be aware this may be the beginning steps of an Article 13 Defense under the Hague Convention. In essence by creating a history of complaints of abuse, the parent intending to abduct lays track to have a court in a foreign country remain abroad and sanction the act of international kidnapping – except it will be viewed as an act of liberation from abuse. Tragically, claims of abuse are commonplace. After all, a parental child kidnapper has defend against the act of child kidnapping, and citing abuse is a common tactic equally used by men and women abductors.
- If a parent living as an alien citizen of one country but has limited roots to that country and is intending to travel with the child abroad, the risks of an abduction are great. Additionally, if the parent who is planning to depart, say on a few week vacation, does not have the ability to purchase a return ticket back to the child’s country of origin and/or does not have employment and/or does not have housing, then you can bet that upon departure for the so-called ‘vacation’, that parent is not returning. Remember, Intent and Sustainability issues are critical. If a person can’t sustain themselves in the country that their child was born, and, they have no deep roots, why in the world would they want to stay?
- If an alien-parent has deep connections to another country, and has deep connections to that country’s senior government officials, there is a clear risk. Recently, I have been advising on a situation where the potential abductor has immediate family members in charge of overseeing a fleet of aircraft owned by a Middle East family (or you could say government). Obviously, access to aircraft and departing under immunity of a foreign government are very concerning.
- If you are planning to allow the child’s other parent consent to travel abroad with your child or if a court is willing to grant travel – and the other parent is not willing to sign the I CARE Foundation’s Travel Consent Form which was designed to uphold jurisdiction of the child’s country of habitual residency while also creating evidence that could moot an abductor’s legal defense strategies, then this too is a serious warning sign that abduction is planned.
Please remember, should you have any questions, please consult with a qualified attorney in the state of jurisdiction applicable to you and your child.