It is not only foreign-born parents who may face consequences for attempting to bring children from the U.S. to their countries of origin unlawfully. The law may also hold grandparents who kidnap their grandchildren, or who aid a parental kidnapping, to account for their actions. A couple from Brazil is discovering this first hand as a Texas court recently fined them each a significant amount of money, as well as sentencing each to short prison terms, for assisting their daughter to relocate her son to their home country without the consent of his American father.
The couple’s daughter married a doctor from Houston in 2008 and gave birth to their son the following year. She and her husband initially shared custody of the boy after their divorce in 2012. In 2013, when the little boy was three years old, his mother allegedly obtained permission for her son to visit Brazil under the pretense of wishing him to attend a family wedding. Her ex-husband filed criminal charges against the child’s mother and her parents when the child did not return by the time they had agreed upon.
A criminal court found the grandparents guilty of international kidnapping in May based on accusations that they knew that their daughter intended to relocate the boy to Brazil permanently and aided her by enrolling her child in a Brazilian school and helping her to find a job in Brazil.
During sentencing in federal court, the judge in the case fined each grandparent $75,000 apiece. The grandparents must turn themselves in to authorities in mid-January, but until then they are free on bond. Upon turning themselves in, the grandmother will spend one month in prison while the grandfather will serve a prison term of three months.
The child and his mother are still living in Brazil and have not returned to this country. U.S. authorities arrested the grandparents when they took a trip to the United States for the birthday party of another grandchild.
Custody disputes can be difficult and painful, but when they stretch across national borders they can become even more complicated. Those with questions about international custody disputes may wish to consult an attorney with experience in such matters.