Summer is known as the high season for international parental child abduction.
As stated by the DOJ website, there are several legal options available for parents who have had a child abducted. Specifically, two federal criminal investigative options and one non-criminal or civil method may be pursued when a child is abducted by a parent and taken over state lines or outside the U.S. They are as follows:
- The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA) of 1993: A criminal arrest warrant can be issued for a parent who takes a juvenile under 16 outside of the U.S. without the other custodial parent’s permission.
- Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP)—Parental Kidnapping: When criminal charges are filed by a state that requests our help, a criminal arrest warrant can be issued for an abducting parent who flees across state lines or internationally. See below for more details.
- The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction: In nations that have signed the Hague Convention, there is a civil process that facilitates the return of abducted children under 16 to their home countries. See below for more details.
The challenge with a criminal processes is that though it may lead to the arrest of the abducting parent, it does not specifically order for the return of the child, although the child is usually returned when the parent is apprehended. Often, judges in other countries may appear hesitant to return a child if they know the abductor is going to be jailed because there is a misconception that doing so would not be 'in the best interest of the child'.
Personally, I think that this is a wrong approach, particularly since the majority of scheming, scamming, fraudster child abducting parents have no concern about arrest.
It should be noted that the general characteristics of the majority of child abductors according to numerous government and non-government organizations is that they are sociopaths with narcissistic tendencies. Sadly, the act of abduction itself has everything to do with the sociopath seeking revenge against the other parent. Thus, they abduct the child in order to cause that parent pain and suffering.
So without concern of retribution and without regard to the child or their true target: the other parent, the conspire and create a disgraceful criminal scheme to abduct. Almost always, they will try to have the other parent arrested prior to the abduction. In addition, online defamation and slander is used against the targeted parent in order to try to have the abductor's act of kidnapping sanctioned by a foreign court under Article 13 b of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
The end result all too often? A kidnapper is given a green-light pass to attempt to destroy the targeted parent's other life. And many abductors no this . . . in many court cases the I CARE Foundation has assisted families in crisis due to abduction, there have been many instances where evidence has been presented to court establishing that the abductor had no concern for any retribution, and buoyed by that safeguard, escalated their attack on their target. In the process, their abuse directed toward the child also escalated.
But perhaps it might be most beneficial to arrest a person who is scheming to commit abduction. Conceivably, there are many acts of fraud, contempt, and misrepresentation that occurs during the pre-abduction stage. Arresting schemers would send a strong message to anyone thinking of kidnapping a child to think again.
International parental child abduction prevention awareness has played a critical role in decreasing the abduction rate in the United States these past two years. Much credit must go to the Department of State's Office of Children's Issues, and the men and women who work day-in and day-out assisting families of abduction.
But the fact remains, as indicated by the nearly 800 reported cased of IPCA in 2012 (and the estimated 800 to 1,200 unreported cases of IPCA), that there still remains a large problem in the U.S. One that is mirrored, if not magnified abroad.
Now I have said for years that I am a strong supporter of the Hague Convention. I still am. However, like most things in life, interpretation of the Hague by a signatory member state is subjective. All too often a country may not comply with the intent and spirit of the convention.
And there are stall tactics an abductor and their lawyers may use during litigation which will only increase the already extremely high cost of litigation for the victimized parent. Without the financial ability to litigate a Hague Case, the chances of a parent reuniting with their child are slim.
Now going back to the U.S. Federal Government's authority in parental kidnapping cases, this stems from the Fugitive Felon Act as part of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1073–UFAP.
Although this statute most commonly applies to fugitives who flee interstate and/or internationally, Congress has specifically declared that the statute is also applicable in cases involving interstate or international parental kidnapping.
Because many fugitives flee with their own children, the statute serves as an effective means for the federal law enforcement to help local and state law enforcement arrest these fugitives. In order for the them to assist with a UFAP arrest warrant, the following criteria must be met:
- There must be probable cause to believe the abducting parent has fled interstate or internationally to avoid prosecution or confinement.
- State authorities must have an outstanding warrant for the abductor’s arrest charging him/her with a felony under the laws of the state from which the fugitive flees.
- State authorities must agree to extradite and prosecute that fugitive from anywhere in the U.S. if the subject is apprehended by the federal law enforcement.
- The local prosecuting attorney or police agency should make a written request for federal law enforcement assistance.
- The U.S. Attorney must authorize the filing of a complaint, and the federal arrest process must be outstanding before the investigation is instituted.
To assist with the recovery of children abducted internationally, the U.S. implemented federal legislation under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act by signing the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in 1988. The Hague Convention is an agreement among its signatories that states:
Each signatory country has designated a Central Authority to carry out specialized duties under the Convention.
One thing is clear no matter what position you may take: international parental child abduction is a serious crime against a child and the targeted parent of abduction. And it must end.
As I reflect upon all the targeted men and women who have had their child either abducted or targeted for kidnapping, I can't help but think about how many of their lives have been permanantly turned upside down due to the unthinkable hardship each faced. The reality is that it is anticipated that only 10% of all internationally abducted children are ever returned. This is terrible.
The key to stopping abduction is to prevent it. Having parents scheming to abduct would be a logical plan.
The U.S. Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues, has been designated as the Central Authority under the Hague Convention for the United States. Questions concerning the Hague Convention should be addressed to the Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues at:
Office of Children’s Issues
SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C. Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520-2818
(202) 736-9133 (fax)