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Growing number of parental child abductions

Last year there were at least 1,500 children who were unlawfully abducted by a parent and taken to a foreign country. As many as one-third of the children were taken to Mexico because of family connections there. Tragically only 578 of the children abducted in 2010 were returned to parents in the United States. It seems the issue of international parental child abductions will only grow larger as the number of international parental child abductions continues to rise.

Parental child abduction occurs when a parent obtains physical custody of a child in violation of a child custody order. A parental child abduction case turns international when a parent absconds with the child over an international border. Many parental child abduction cases occur when a parent makes a seemingly routine visitation. Parental child abduction cases are tough to solve because local police do not often file missing child reports for child custody disputes. International parental child abductions are even tougher. Custom and Border Protection agents do not check departing parents or children at airports or border crossings.

Federal authorities do not have a national database that keeps track of child custody orders, but even if customs agents had access, the time frame to identify a missing child report against passenger information is no more than 30 minutes for an international departure. According to a former criminal court judge and prosecutor from Texas, once the parent makes it to the gate with the child, they are gone.

Members of an international treaty meant to regulate international child custody issues are supposed to cooperate among each other to resolve parental child abduction cases. Solving an international parental child abduction case may not be a priority on some countries' national agendas. In some countries, like Mexico, where the rule of law is challenged courts are afraid to cooperate. Since a civil war between the government and drug cartels exists, judges are afraid that parents may have ties to the drug cartels.

For many parents in the United States, the hope of finding their child does not subside. As one parent said, he wants his daughter to know that he loves her and hopes she reach out to him over the Internet.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "What happens if your ex abducts your child?" Stewart M. Powell, 7/4/11

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