Protect against International Child Abduction in NY and NJ with these tips

Sad departureChild abduction, usually involving one parent, is becoming more rampant in this multi-cultural age with parents of diverse nationalities. In this blog, we address parental abduction to other states or countries, and not the other forms of sordid abduction such as kidnapping for ransom or sex trafficking.

This blog also centers on the New York and New Jersey area because of its easy access to international travel with major airports and docks. In this modern age of quick transportation and the increase in cross-cultural relationships where one parent is from the United States and the other has connections to a foreign country, parental child abduction has risen to epic proportions. These foreign countries may have traditions or laws which are prejudicial to a parent because of gender or origin bias. For instance, the country may be patriarchal and/or sexist.

We have experienced the fact that when one parent is of foreign birth, he or she may decide after the end of the marriage or relationship to go back to their country of origin and take their child(ren) with them without the permission or even the knowledge of the other parent. The parent will plan way in advance of departure, gathering their necessities and developing an escape plan. If you are suspicious of this happening, there are several measures that you can take with or without an attorney to deter such action. None of them are foolproof and some of them are more difficult than others.

Abduction Prevention – Know Your Child and the Other Parent

  • Secure the children’s passports. If they have dual citizenship, you must secure both passports. This can be done with self-help or with an attorney through the legal process;
  • If possible, secure the passport of the foreign-born parent as well;
  • Passport Issuance Alert Program: If United States passports are involved, enter your child on the Passport Issuance Alert Program.
    In the event your spouse is a United States citizen living in a foreign Country, this is not necessarily a guarantee because the usual gambit by a woman/man who plans on absconding is to go to the United States Embassy, tell them that his/her passport was either taken from him/her or lost, and allege that he/she and/or the children are victims of domestic violence. It is our experience if you are a foreigner living in the United States that the same is true. We have experienced clients who will go to the Country of Origin Embassy in New York and claim the same exact thing. A significant amount Countries have similar, although not identical, programs that may be able to prevent your spouse from abducting your child and obtaining a replacement passport. It is important to keep in mind that Embassies are rarely told the full background of the alleged domestic violence, and one ex-parte order for protection is enough even if it later gets dismissed for lack of prosecution.
  • Gather important information such as birth certificates and your marriage certificate, If there is a custody order, preserve it. In the Order, there should be special provisions for visitation, relocation restrictions, the child’s residence, etc.;
  • Know your child: hair and eye color, distinguishing marks, take photos every 6 months, and names of friends, relatives, and acquaintances. Take their fingerprints. Local police departments will provide this service free;
  • Know the other parent: relatives, friends, associates, their address, social security number, passport number, auto license number, bank accounts, properties, etc;
  • Employ tracking devices on the children. There are apps if your children are old enough to have a cell phone that will allow you track your child, however, the first step of any parent seeking to abduct their child is get rid of any device that can be tracked;
  • Be aware of the warning signs. Be on the alert for changes in the other parent such as mood, job, selling a home, closing bank accounts, etc. Do not ignore abduction threats and, if made, get a restraining order;
  • Be aware the United States does not have exit controls or require two-parent consent for a minor to travel across international borders. Law enforcement may be unable to prevent an abduction without a valid court order clearly prohibiting the child’s travel outside of the United States.

Embassies and Consulates

To permit this circumlocution, you must pre-empt the above by going to the embassy and make them aware of the situation and ask them to flag the passport of the parent and child, and have these passports also flagged by the United States Government.

Most Embassies have their own procedures to prevent a new passport being issued for your child.

For instance, prior to Japan becoming a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, we contacted the Japanese Consulate in New York and appeared with our Client who was fearful that his Wife would abscond with the children to Japan. Our client was even more fearful because he allowed the Wife to obtain Japanese passports for the children. In Order to what we call “flag” and prevent the issuance of a New Passport for the Children, we obtained what is called a “Koseki” from Japan. A “Koseki” is essentially a family registration document filed in what is considered the hometown in Japan. Gourvitz & Gourvitz utilized local counsel in Japan to obtain the “Koseki” which was necessary for the Consulate in Japan to “flag” and prevent any new passport from being issued.

Important Information If your Child(ren) Is/Are Abducted:

If the event you are a United States Citizen and your child is abducted from or to the United States, the following are some useful contact(s):

  • Contact Law Enforcement and File a Report
  • Retain Counsel
  • Obtain Custody Order
  • Contact Family and Friends to try to ascertain whereabouts

Helpful Resources and Organizations:

Major Biographical Data Mining Resources

Intelius: https://www.intelius.com
Instant Check Mate: https://www.instantcheckmate.com
Spokeo: https://www.spokeo.com
Pipl: https://pipl.com
Truth Finder: https://www.truthfinder.com
Been Verified: https://www.beenverified.com

More importantly, have an attorney who knows what they are doing, and has extensive experience with Hague Convention child abduction cases.