We are all familiar with the horror stories of children being kidnapped by strangers, but the truth is that most child abductions are committed by someone the child knows, typically a parent. This scenario often comes up in the context of a custody battle between parents, and it can have terrible consequences.
The parent who is left behind faces the torment of not knowing where their child is. The child can suffer lasting psychological damage. In cases involving child abuse, the situation can get even worse.
And this type of abduction is more common than many people think. The Department of Justice estimates there are about 15,880 children involved in “serious” parental abductions every year. Still, the Justice Department says these cases generate only about 30,500 police reports per year, and lead to only about 4,500 arrests. Only about 3,500 of these cases lead to criminal prosecutions.
Still, in most cases, the parent left behind only wants their kids back. It’s good for them to know that if the other parent takes their kids away to another city or another state, they can get help from the authorities.
Things can be a lot harder if the other parent takes the child to another country. The abducting parent may be subject to a custody order in Michigan, and the other states must recognize the rulings of Michigan courts, but Michigan can’t enforce court rulings in a different country.
The Hague Convention
Many countries have tried to address this problem through an international treaty known as the Hague Convention. The basic idea behind this treaty is that custody matters should be decided according to the law of the country where the child lives most of the time.
Although the United States can’t enforce its laws inside of another country, if the other country in question is a signatory to the Hague Convention, then U.S. officials can direct officials within the other country to locate a child who was abducted by a parent in the United States and brought to that country. The Convention also smooths the way for the U.S. parent to introduce evidence that can bolster their parental rights.
Note that the convention can only be used when both countries are signatories. The child in question must be 16 or under.
These cases can be extremely challenging. Concerned parents can benefit from speaking to an attorney with experience in international litigation.