Sometimes a parent will take his or her child overseas unlawfully. This situation is referred to as international parental-child abduction.

What Can I Do if my Child Has Been Taken Overseas without my Consent?

Child abduction is a very stressful ordeal. The first inquiry would be: Is the country where the abducting parent took the child a party of the Hague Convention? If so, then there is a definite procedure you could follow to have your child returned.

You should also file a missing persons report with your local police department. The police department will put the data into a computer server and request through INTERPOL, the international police association, that a search be conducted by police in the country you suspect your child is located.

What is the Hague Convention?

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an agreement by party countries to ensure the return of abducted children to their home country. The purpose set out by the Hague Convention is to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention and to set out procedures for the child’s prompt return. The Hague Convention only applies to member states.

You will need to provide your lawyer with some basic information including:

  • a certified copy of your custody decree from a U.S. (or foreign) court
  • what steps you have taken to contact the abducting parent, or his or her relatives and friends

Why are Custody Decrees Important?

In many American states and foreign countries, the parents share equal legal custody. Thus, it would not be illegal for a parent to take a child out of the country. If you are contemplating divorce or separation, you should obtain a legal decree of child custody. If you prefer having joint custody, then you should make sure to obtain a decree that prohibits the travel of your child without your permission or that of the state court.

U.S. State Department Assistance

The U.S. State Department considers international parental child abduction a top priority. The State Department will aid a parent in recovering a child. In cases where the Hague Convention applies, the State Department may assist with applications to the foreign country the child was taken to. In other cases, the State Department will aid in locating the child and arranging visits. The Department of State (DOS) can also provide information about the legal system of the country to which the child was abducted as well as a list of lawyers in that country.

What if My Child Has Been Taken to a Country Not a Signatory of the Hague Convention?

If this is the case, you should seek out a child custody lawyer in the country where your child has been taken to or have your lawyer do so for you. The DOS cannot act as your attorney or representative.