Today is [or January 11th is] National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. On this day, we bring awareness to human trafficking, or the exploitation or enslavement of people by force, fraud, or coercion.
Human trafficking is a crime that persists in almost every country. And unfortunately, human trafficking can intersect with family law matters, particularly when it comes to international custody cases.
When partners from different countries split up, a tumultuous custody battle can erupt if one parent decides to flee the country with the children without the other parent’s consent.
This can happen if the custody fight doesn’t seem like it will turn out in their favor or if a parent refuses to return the children to the U.S. after an international visit. If your ex has taken your child across the border without your consent, here’s what you can do to get your child back.
Parental abduction is a federal crime. In 1993, Congress passed the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (“IPKCA”), making it a federal crime for a parent or other individual to remove or attempt to remove a child from the U.S. or retain a child outside the country with the intent to obstruct the other parent’s custodial rights. Under the law, prosecutors may investigate and prosecute a parent who has abducted children without the other parent’s consent. So to begin the process of getting your child back as the parent left behind, you must begin by filing charges with federal authorities to get the full weight of the Department of Justice on your side.
The Department of State serves as the left-behind parent’s point of contact when it comes to getting a child back from a foreign country. Through the Department of State, a parent can gather information on country-specific custody and immigration laws, request that a U.S. embassy or consulate verify the child’s entry into that country, and make attempts to check on the child’s welfare. The Department of State can also assist the parent with the coordination of return efforts.
Even if the federal court finds a parent guilty of violating IPKCA, there is no mechanism by which U.S. courts can order a foreign country to return a child living overseas.
In such instances, parents should file a civil petition under the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention is an agreement between 95 countries that sets forth the specific procedures countries must follow when a child of one country is “wrongfully removed or retained” in another.
Unfortunately, Hague Convention provisions only apply if both countries are signatories to the agreement. So if your ex has taken your child to a country that has not signed onto the Hague Convention, you will likely have to use other methods to retrieve your child.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (“NCMEC”) assists victims, families, law enforcement, social service agencies, mental health agencies, and others when they need help with a missing, exploited, or recovered child. Through its programs, parents can request financial assistance to travel to another country or obtain travel support for their child’s return to the United States.
NCMEC also provides services for recovered children who are at high risk for long-term psychological problems and may struggle with identity, relationships, and family issues in adulthood.
Parents fighting for their child’s return due to an international parental abduction often face a long, uphill battle. It’s easy to lose hope given the complex nature of these cases, and it’s not a legal battle you want to fight without an attorney.
If your child has been taken from the United States without your consent, Angela F. Brown and Associates is committed to helping you get your child back safely. Don’t wait one more day. Contact us today so we can help you get your child back.