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Parental Abductions -- Foreign and Domestic

If you believe your child has been abducted, the first thing you need to do is call the Police!

Your local law enforcement officials have the power and authority to put into action all manner of means and resources to initiate a search for your child.

The second thing you should do is contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at www.missingkids.com

The third thing you need to do is to consult with a Family Law Attorney experienced in the location, recovery and return of abducted children.

Bill Hoge has been involved in the successful return of several sets of children from countries who are parties to the Hague Convention.  He has also been involved in negotiations aimed at the return of children from non-Hague countries.

See the Hague Conference of 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction website for more details about this multilateral treaty which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return.

See lists below for the current countries with are signatory members of the Hague Convention and those which are not.

After you initiate a call to the local authorities to report the abduction of your children and after you initiate contact with the NCMEC, call us to see if there is more that we can do for you here in Kentucky to assist in their return to their home.

Parental abductions are very different from "kidnapping".  By definition, a kidnapper is one who wrongfully takes a child to whom he/she has no custodial claim.  A "parental abduction" involves the taking of a child by one parent and, in the process, denying the other parent of his or her parental access to a child.

A parental abduction can take place within the borders of Kentucky, or it might involve interstate flight where the abducting parent removes a child from Kentucky and takes the child to another state or it can involve a international removal of the child from the United States of America.

Unless there is a court order in existence to the contrary, Kentucky law presumes that both parents have equal authority to make decisions in the best interest of the child.

This means that, assuming there is no court order to the contrary, both parents have the decision-making power to decide where the child will live, go to school, attend worship services, receive medical attention, etc.  "Custody" is actually this decision-making authority, not so much with whom the child might be at any given point in time.

But, if one parent unilaterally decides on his or her own that the child is not going to live in its "customary domicile" or usual place of residence, the other parent has the right to object to this one-sided decision.  The usual recourse is to approach the Court in the county where the child has historically lived to settle this dispute.

When one parent keeps a child from the other parent, that is considered parental abduction or custodial interference.

In the event of parental abduction or custodial interference here in Kentucky, we recommend you consult with an experienced Family Law Attorney in your area to file an action on your behalf in the local court, such as the Jefferson Family Court.

If, however, your child has been taken by the other parent or someone else either to another country or from another country into the United States, then you need to consult with an attorney who is experienced in coordinating recovery and legal efforts across international lines under theHague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (commonly referred to as the "Hague Convention").

In addition, it is critical that you immediately make contact with the U.S. State Department Office of Children's Issues to enlist their possible assistance in cases involving international parental abduction, particularly under the Hague Convention.  This multilateral treaty that seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return.

The United States of America is a party to the Hague Convention and has agreed to be subject to its rules in international parental abduction matters.

To determine whether the other country involved is also a signatory to the Hague Convention, see http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.statusprint&cid=24.

In international abduction cases, a Hague Convention application may be necessary if a child is taken to or retained in another country, away from his or her habitual residence, without the consent of a parent who has rights of custody.

The bottom line, under the rules of the Convention, is the abducted or retained child must be promptly returned to his/her habitual residence unless the return will create a grave risk of harm to the child.

Obviously, there are no guarantees in such situations, but the Hague Convention sets out a very complex means of potentially recovering a child so the courts in the child's habitual place of residence can sort out what is in his/her best interest.

According to the U.S. Department of State, there are currently approximately 70 countries which are either signatories to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.  Those nations include:

Argentina | Australia | Austria | Bahamas | Belgium | Belize | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Brazil | Bulgaria | Burkina Faso | Canada | Chile | China, People's Republic of | Colombia | Costa Rica | Croatia | Cyprus | Czech Republic | Denmark | Dominican Republic | Ecuador | El Salvador | Estonia | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Guatemala | Honduras | Hungary | Iceland | Ireland | Israel | Italy | Latvia | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Macedonia | Malta | Mauritius | Mexico | Monaco | Montenegro | Netherlands | New Zealand | Norway | Panama | Paraguay | Peru | Poland | Portugal | Romania | Saint Kitts and Nevis | San Marino | Serbia | Slovakia | Slovenia | South Africa | Spain | Sri Lanka | Sweden | Switzerland | Turkey | Ukraine | United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland | United States of America | Uruguay | Venezuela | Zimbabwe

To confirm whether a country is today a party or signatory to the Hague Convention and any limits to that country's level of participation with the Convention, see http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.statusprint&cid=24.

The Hague Convention is not applicable if a child is taken to or from a country that is not a party to the accord.

Countries NOT signatory to the Hague Convention in 2012 included:

Afghanistan | Albania | Algeria | Andorra | Angola | Antigua and Barbuda | Armenia | Azerbaijan | Bahrain | Bangladesh | Barbados | Belarus | Benin | Bhutan | Bolivia | Botswana | Brunei | Burma (Myanmar) | Burundi | Cambodia | Cameroon | Cape Verde | Central African Republic | Chad | Comoros | Congo (Brazzaville) | Congo (Democratic Republic of / Kinshasa) | Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) | Cuba | Djibouti | Dominica | Egypt | Equatorial Guinea | Eritrea | Ethiopia | Fiji | Gabon | Gambia | Georgia | Ghana | Grenada | Guinea | Guinea-Bissau | Guyana | Haiti | Holy See | India | Indonesia | Iran | Iraq | Jamaica | Japan | Jordan | Kazakhstan | Kenya | Kiribati | Korea, North | Korea, South | Kosovo | Kuwait | Kyrgyzstan | Laos | Lebanon | Lesotho | Liberia | Libya | Liechtenstein | Madagascar | Malawi | Malaysia | Maldives | Mali | Marshall Islands | Mauritania | Micronesia | Moldova, Republic of | Mongolia | Morocco | Mozambique | Namibia | Nauru | Nepal | Nicaragua | Niger | Nigeria | Oman | Pakistan | Palau | Papua New Guinea | Phillippines | Qatar | Russia | Rwanda | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Samoa | Sao Tome and Principe | Saudi Arabia | Senegal | Seychelles | Sierra Leone | Singapore | Solomon Islands | Somalia | Sudan | Suriname | Swaziland | Syria | Taiwan | Tajikistan | Tanzania | Thailand | Timor-Leste (East Timor) | Togo | Tonga | Trinidad and Tobago | Tunisia | Turkmenistan | Tuvalu | Uganda | United Arab Emirates | Uzbekistan | Vanuatu | Vietnam | Yemen | Zambia |

The list of countries which comply with the Hague Convention is constantly changing.  For instance, Japan did not sign it until May 2008. Do not rely on the above list as absolute confirmation of a country's compliance or non-compliance with the Convention.  Please confirm this through other sources, such as the U.S. State Department's website at http://travel.state.gov or http://hcch.e-vision.nl.

If your child has been abducted, contact your local police first, then the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.  Then call us to see if we can help get your kids back!

The U.S. State Department offers very useful advice on steps you can take to PREVENT international child abductions.  Those suggestions include:

  • A detailed custody order and good legal advice can go a long way in protecting your parental rights.

  • Detailed custody orders include special provisions on the custody decree such as specifying the beginning and end dates of visits; relocation restrictions; supervised visitation for the potential taking parent; requiring the court’s approval to take the child out of the state or country; and asking for the court or a neutral third party to hold passports.

  • Consult your attorney about the drawbacks to joint-custody orders in parental abduction cases, if ordered. Ensure that you clearly specify the child’s residential arrangements at all times.

  • Do not ignore any abduction threat. Notify police and give them copies of any restraining order on your ex-spouse. You may also request restricted locations for visitation rights if you can prove potential harm to your child.

  • Be on the alert for sudden changes in the other parent’s life. Changes, such as quitting a job, selling a home, or closing a bank account, may be signs that the parent may be planning to leave the country.

  • Don’t delay action if you think your child has been taken by the other parent. Make sure that if your child is abducted, the police take a detailed report and that your child is entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system right away (a warrant is not required).

  • Be aware that if one parent is a citizen of another country, your child may have dual nationality. Contact the embassy of that country and inquire about their passport requirements for minors.


Return to our main Custody & Visitation page to learn more about child custody, visitation and parenting schedules