International Child Abductions Can Be Complicated

North Carolina residents may have seen a number of international child custody cases in the news recently, including the upcoming trial of a New Hampshire mother who absconded to Central America with her 8-year-old daughter 10 years ago. These cases underscore the difficulties faced by parents and the U.S. government when child custody cases across international borders.

Between 2008 and 2013, at least 8,000 American children were kidnapped by parents who then fled to a foreign country, according to the U.S. State Department. Despite the presence of an international treaty that is supposed to facilitate their return, only 50 percent of the abducted children have come back to the United States. Experts identify several reasons for the low recovery rate. One problem, which was paramount in the New Hampshire case, is that authorities often have difficulty tracking down the location of the abducted child. Another problem is that some countries that have signed the international treaty, such as Brazil, still refuse to cooperate with child custody proceedings. Lastly, the logistics of repeatedly traveling to foreign countries for court hearings is often difficult for parents fighting for the return of their children.

In an effort to more effectively fight international child abductions, Congress passed new legislation in 2014. The law requires the U.S. State Department to publish an annual list of all countries that received an abducted American child in hopes they will be embarrassed into action. The law also provides a schedule of steps the government can take to pressure other countries into returning U.S. children.

Any North Carolina parent who is facing a child custody case may wish to speak with a family law attorney. A lawyer could help negotiate for a custody and visitation agreement that is in the best interests of the child.

Source: ABC News, “Complex Challenges Posed in International Child Abductions,” Rik Stevens, May 10, 2015