Divorce rates are on the rise across the world. Here in the U.S., the divorce rate is higher than 50%, with Spain, Portugal and Belgium almost 20% higher than the rest of the world. In China, the divorce rate continues to rise and because of the increase, Asian countries are marketing against divorce hoping to encourage marriage and family unity. One Asian ad campaign titled "Rejoice" asks those struggling in their marriages to reevaluate divorce and instead choose love. With the rise in divorce, it's not surprising there are unusual situations that may arise, calling for quick attention and expertise. One such situation occurs when a child is abducted by a parent and taken to another country. In 2014, data from the U.S. Department of State shows 434 new reported cases of child abduction across the world. Keith Hotten, a barrister, mediator and matrimonial law professor in Hong Kong says parental child abduction issues commonly arise because of the large community of ex-pats living overseas.
If your ex kidnaps your child and moves to another country, what results is a legal battle both expensive and complicated because of the litany of laws both in your home state and overseas. So what should you do if you are faced with this obstacle? There are three essential steps you should consider:
1. Contact Your Local Authorities: If your ex takes your child to another country without your permission (or violates court orders), it is imperative to contact local authorities. This is especially important if you are concerned about the safety and well-being of your child while in the care of your ex.
2. Seek Legal Counsel: This is a situation which calls for immediate attention and assistance from a professional attorney who can help with the return of your child. Specifically, you will want to find a family law attorney who is well-versed in this area of law and has successfully negotiated the return of a child from a foreign jurisdiction. Once a child is taken out of the country, there are many hurdles a parent must go through and if you are not properly armed with an outstanding legal team, it will be that much more difficult. If you are concerned about the whereabouts and well-being of your child, it is very important to keep your attorney apprised of all communications with your ex.
3. Research the Hague Convention Treaty: If your child is taken out of the country, you will want to determine if the destination country is a party to the Hague convention. The Hague Convention of October 25, 1980 is an international treaty that seeks to protect children from wrongful removal or retention in a foreign country. Not all countries are part of the Hague convention, so it's important to determine whether the country holding your child is a party to the treaty. Do your research and don't be afraid to ask your attorney tough questions about how the Hague Convention treaty, along with other U.S. domestic laws will affect your case.
If you believe your child is in danger of parental abduction, there are preventative measures to consider such as notifying your child's teachers, babysitters and other caretakers of a possible threat, keeping record of any and all threats and making sure you have updated photos of your child. Gather all documents related to your child, such as passports and birth certificates and make sure you securely store these documents in a safe place, accessible only by you or individuals you trust. Finally, keep the lines of communication open between you and your ex, as it may also help reduce any potential flight risks you may be concerned about.