Thursday, May 8, 2014

The International Travel Child Consent Form: A Critical Abduction Prevention Tool

I CARE Foundation Call-To-ArmsSummer is quickly approaching, and with that, the I CARE Foundation sees a drastic increase in the number of children that are targeted for international parental child abduction.  In fact, the summer season, when children are on their school break, is the most prominent time of the year for international abductions to occur. Most often we see families travelling abroad as part of summer plans, but the would-be abducting parent doesn't consider this a family vacation, rather they use it as an opportunity to abduct their child.

When it comes to parental child abduction, the warning signs are visible if you know what to look for, but typically the other parent is unsuspecting of any schemes of abduction.  Once travel is complete and they are abroad, the scheming parent will often lay a host of criminal charges against the other parent, including domestic, physical and mental abuse, threats of murder, and outlandish acts of child abuse and neglect – all for one purpose: to sever the other parent’s relationship with the child and to gain legal actions to the foreign courts they are now physically located in by having the targeted parent arrested and prevented from seeing either them or the child.

Now what most individuals do not realize is that once that child steps foot on foreign soil, that child’s temporary welfare becomes the responsibility of the rules of law and courts of the country they are located in.  Which means this: the police and courts must follow the procedures established under their law: the targeted parent more than likely will be arrested, issued restraining orders against them, and have their access to their child denied until an investigation is done. Meanwhile, the abducting parent files a host of legal motions in the country that will further restrain the targeted parent.

Welcome to a scheming kidnappers idea of a vacation.

It is however, not only the summer vacation season that we need to be concerned about international parental child abduction.  Parents that are involved in high-conflict child custody disputes, especially those of an international nature, where a child may be travelling abroad - they need to think very carefully and be very aware of the risks involved for their child in relation to international travel.

The truth is, international parental child abduction associated with child custody disputes and court orders relating to travel is commonplace. Often, parents involved in international child custody disputes and who may be targeted for abduction think that their child is best protected from abduction when there is a court order in place for the child to return if the other parent is granted travel... but this is just not the case.  Unless you have an international travel child consent form that has immediate ramifications attached to it, then a parent and child targeted for abduction are in serious risk.

Abduction is never in the best interest of the child.

The Hague Convention offers civil remedies for children and parents of abduction. However, the process can be difficult at times and often does not work due to the complexities of law and the limited support a targeted parent may receive litigating their case to reunite with their child.

Clearly, the best way to protect a child from abduction is to prevent international parental child abduction.

In order to combat international child abduction, the I CARE Foundation created the ground-breaking, Hague-centric International Travel Child Consent Form, which can be utilized to protect against a child’s wrongful detention abroad.  Ultimately, the travel consent form helps to ensure the child is returned home should there be an international abduction. With approximately 70% of all international abductions based upon the wrongful retention of a child abroad, the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form is the most effective tool available to assist parents and children at risk of abduction.

Here is a brief Q & A regarding the International Travel Child Consent Form which will help explain why this ground-breaking tool is so critical in the prevention of international child abduction.

Q.  Why use the I CARE Foundation’s Hague International Child Abduction-centric ‘International Travel Child Consent Form’?

A.  It is estimated that approximately 70% of all cases of international parental child abduction occur when a child is wrongfully retained in a foreign country. The wrongful retention of a child abroad generally occurs during a court directed travel order or when travel occurs by mutual parental consent. However, unknown to the targeted parent who may either travel with the child or who may remain in the child’s country of habitual residency, the scheming parent intending to remain abroad with the child has more than likely crafted a well-orchestrated scheme that includes use of Article 12 and Article 13 of the Hague Convention in order to remain abroad with the child.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of children wrongfully detained in a foreign country do not come home.  The I CARE Foundation’s ‘International Travel Child Consent Form’ protects against misuse of all known international child abduction defenses under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, including Articles 12, 13, and 20, while upholding the intent and spirit of Article 1 of the Child Abduction Convention.

Q.  Is the I CARE Foundation’s ‘International Travel Child Consent Form’ enforceable in foreign courts?

A.  Yes. One of the key elements of the I CARE Form is that the document requires an Apostolic Notarization (see information on Apostolic Documentation). The travel consent form must be delivered prior to travel to the consulate or embassy of the country the child will be traveling to that is located in the child’s country of habitual residency as well as a copy sent to the child’s country of habitual residency’s consulate or embassy located in the country they intend to travel to.

Peter Thomas Senese TestimonyQ.  How difficult is it to have a child who is abducted returned to their country of original jurisdiction?

A.  One of the greatest challenges all targeted parents face is that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to recover and reunite with abducted children.  Statistically, the grave challenges have not been fully revealed primarily due to the vast majority of countries around the world not reporting their abduction rate. In fact, of the 91 signatory countries of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, only a handful of countries have reported their international parental child abduction statistics.  One country that has done reporting is the United States. And as reported in the testimony presented to the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations hearing that took place in February, 2014, approximately 40% of American children abducted to Hague signatory countries are returned home.  This number has rapidly declined over the past few years.  Additionally, less than 20% of all children taken to non-Hague signatory nations have been returned to the U.S.

It is noteworthy to share that excluding the United States, countries that have reported their abduction rate have demonstrated on average a 20% growth in abduction per year.  The ongoing global abduction rate increase is in contradiction to the reported U.S. outbound abduction rate, which has declined by 23% during  the reporting periods of FY 2011 and 2012.

Q.  Why is it that the majority of parents are successful in carrying out their scheme of abduction?

Hague Conference
A.  Perhaps the singular most important factor is that local courts in foreign countries are not abiding by the intent and spirit of the Hague Child Abduction Convention.  Specifically, all abductors will make defense claims under Article 12 or Article 13 of the Hague Convention.   Article 12 has to do with intent to relocate, and Article 13 has to do with the ‘Best interest of the child’, which recently has been expanded in many courts to include ‘Best interest of the child and extended family’. Unfortunately, Article 13 in particular has become the Achilles Heel of the abduction prevention community.

During Hague proceedings, the convention calls for the inbound country’s Hague Court to look at Article 13 defenses only in extreme cases as the intent of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention is to determine which court has jurisdiction of the child, and then properly and expeditiously return that child to the country where the court of original jurisdiction is located.  However, around the world, courts are no longer acting in an expeditious manner (outside of tribunal courts such as those established in England) as is cited under Article 1 of The Hague Child Abduction Convention.  Instead, local courts are calling for detailed findings of what is in the best interest of the child and in essence making their own custody ruling even though they are not the court of original jurisdiction.

Problematically, these courts are in essence mooting not only the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention but they are essentially quashing the court orders originating from the child’s country of original jurisdiction.

What the I CARE Foundation’s ‘International Travel Child Consent Form’ does is it upholds the intent and spirit of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, including Article 1’s ‘Expeditious determination clause’. In addition, the travel consent form strongly addresses misuse of Article 12 and Article 13 defenses, and essentially moots use of false claim.  In addition, the I CARE Foundation’s travel consent form upholds the sanctity of the court of original jurisdiction located in the child’s country of habitual residency.

In essence, the I CARE Foundation’s ‘International Travel Child Consent Form’ is the only global child abduction prevention tool that safeguards against misuse of the Hague Child Abduction Convention defenses and calls for the immediate return of a child if that child is wrongfully detained by mutual consent of both parents.

Q.  Who has supported the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form?

A.  The I CARE Foundation’s ‘International Travel Child Consent Form’ has been supported by global child abduction prevention leaders around the globe including Turkey’s Honorable Judge Selma Nilhan Tekinalp, a world renown child advocate and leading authority on Hague abduction law stated,
The judiciary has an absolute responsibility to prevent against international parental child abduction. In cases when a parent wrongfully takes or detains a child in a foreign country without court order or consent society must understand that this is never a child custody case but a case of kidnapping. The grave and severe abuse to children of abduction at the hands of their kidnapping parents is devastating and only now coming into public light. From the I CARE Foundation sponsored conference at the United Nations I participated in, and discussed with Mr. Peter Thomas Senese numerous issues revolving around how we may prevent abduction, I am pleased to share that the ‘I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form’ has the worldwide potential to dramatically reduce global child abduction. This agreement is deep in Hague law, and strikes at the core of abductor statements who may attempt to mislead courts into sanctioning a kidnapping established under the rules of the Hague Convention. I welcome the creation of the Special Commission.
Esteemed Washington D.C. international family law attorney Armin U. Kuder, partner at the highly respected firm Kuder, Smollar & Friedman, has been named in every article identifying leading family lawyers in the prestigious ‘Washingtonian Magazine’ while also has been named in ‘The Best Lawyers in America’ since the publication’s inception, provided insight on the pragmatic usefulness of the ‘International Travel Child Consent Form’ when he said,
If there is no prior attempt at international abduction of a child, it is extremely difficult to convince a court that it is going to happen. The I Care Foundation International Travel Child Consent Form is a powerful tool for exposing a would-be abductor’s intent. If a parent will not sign the form, we have compelling evidence to present to a court in support of limitations on travel, use of passports, and conditions for access to the child.
Silvia A. Sejas Pardo, a highly respected Argentinean and Spanish international lawyer based in Spain and who is a Founding Member of FASIM, an international association of attorneys dedicated to preventing child abduction commented,
The creation of the Special Commission is a critical step in furthering the global utilization of the ‘International Travel Child Consent Form’ into courts everywhere. We as lawyers who are on the front-line in the fight to stop abduction not only must embrace this clever and sophisticated tool, but we must share of its high merit with lawyers and the judiciary around the world. If we do, we will prevent many abductions.
Carolina Marín Pedreño is a partner at the prestigious London-based law firm of Dawson Cornwell, Carolina Marín Pedreño is the Founding Member of FASIM, an international association of attorneys based in Barcelona created to prevent and assist with international child abduction cases. Additionally, Carolina is the Secretary of the British and Spanish Law Association, a member of the Spanish Association of Family Lawyers, AEAFA, Resolution, Reunite: International Child Abduction Centre, the Society of British and Argentine Lawyers, and the Association of Lawyers for Children, added,
The positive feedback of the Secretary General is extremely welcome as it highlights the potential of the I CARE Foundation’s ‘International Travel Child Consent Form as an international instrument to prevent and reduce cases of child abduction globally. The I Care Foundation has created a wonderful tool, but it is essential that the judiciary and child abduction practitioners around the world now use the Consent Form in international cases; only then will a body of case law develop in each jurisdiction that will enshrine the importance of the Form and lead to a significant decrease in international child abduction. I welcome the creation of the Special Commission and look forward to sharing our findings with the Hague Conference’s leadership.
Mexico’s Carlos Alvarado is a partner at the International Law Group and considered one of the most knowledgeable international family law attorneys in Mexico. Mr. Alvarado was responsible for codifying and translating the I CARE Foundation’s travel consent form into Spanish. Mr. Alvarado added,
The creation of the I CARE Foundation Special Commission is a very significant event for it further demonstrates the significant progress of the ‘International Travel Child Consent Form’. There is no question in my mind that when fully implemented, we will see a sizable decline in child abductions. On this note, society must remember that when a parent internationally abducts a child, this is not a child custody case, but a kidnapping. And as reported last month by the U.S. Department of Justice, children who are abducted by one parent face high degree threats of violence and possible murder. I look forward to sharing the findings of the Special Commission with the leadership of the international community.
Linda Hammerschmid is Secretary of the Family Law Association of Quebec and a Family Law practitioner in Montreal Canada with over 30 years’ experience in the field. Ms. Hammerschmid commented,
The creation of the new International Travel Consent form is a MUST have, not only for Government Departments, Family Law Attorneys and divorcing couples, but also for INTACT families, and should be kept at the homes of ALL parents to use whenever one or the other wishes to travel alone with their children. Far too often the traveling parent only informs the other, AFTER departure, of their intention not to return the children.
Q.  Has the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form Work?

A.  The I CARE Foundation’s Travel Consent Form has been utilized in courtrooms around the world. To date and to the best of our knowledge, every child who has traveled under the form and who has properly executed all the instructions suggested on the form have all returned to their home country of origin.

Q.  Will the Hague Secretariat Seek To Implement An International Travel Consent Form in the future?

A.  It is our understanding that the creation of a formal Hague Travel Consent form is a high priority for review of the Secretary General.

Q.  Are there legal briefs and case law analysis available that support the I CARE Foundation’s ‘International Travel Child Consent Form’ and is there a fee for the legal brief?

A.  The I CARE Foundation has prepared an extensive legal analysis of the travel consent form. The analysis is free of charge.

Q.  Can the I CARE Foundation’s ‘International Travel Child Consent Form’ be used for travel to non-Hague signatory countries?

A.  The reality is that children taken to non-Hague signatory countries do not come home. This is a truth that still remains true today. We urge all courts and lawyers considering use of the I CARE Foundation’s ‘International Travel Child Consent Form’ to proceed with great caution when considering allowing travel for a child to a non-Hague country particularly when there are concerns that a child may be wrongfully detained.  If there are moderate concerns of abduction, we strongly advise against any type of travel regardless of the use of our travel consent form or not.

If you should have questions regarding the I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form, please contact us at

Please visit the I CARE Foundation website to download a free copy of the International Travel Child Consent Form.

Kind regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese