Child custody disputes can be complicated matters in any situation, but these disputes are compounded when a parent absconds with the child out of the U.S. Every day, children in the U.S. are wrongfully removed from the country in violation of parental rights. For this reason, the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA) was enacted making it a crime for a parent to abscond or attempt to abscond with a child with the intention of obstructing the other parent’s parental rights.
The effect of international parental kidnapping on the child
While the absconding parent may feel they are right in removing the child from the U.S., in actuality generally this is farthest from the truth. Oftentimes these removals are a result of heated or emotional disputes between the child’s parents. International parental kidnapping removes a child from their familiar environment to a country where they may have no sense of community or even understand the language and customs of the country. The child may miss schooling, and they may even have their identity altered or concealed in order to keep them hidden from the other parent. Moreover, such situations can cause long-term psychological problems for the child.
Legal challenges in parental kidnapping cases
There are legal challenges those contesting a parental kidnapping may face. Under federal law, prosecutors generally have no say over custodial decisions and the return of the child. The IPKCA actually does not have provisions regarding the demand to return the child. Thus, even if an absconding parent is successfully prosecuted under IPKCA, there are no rules for returning the child to the U.S.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction provides a means for the return of abducted children to the U.S. However, it is only applicable to countries that are signatories to the Convention. The U.S. is a signatory, but not all other countries are. Desperate parents may try to just go to the foreign nation to retrieve their child, but such extra-judicial forms of recovery may violate both federal law and the laws of the country where the child is located.
Learn more about international child custody disputes
International parental child abduction is a serious issue that can be difficult to resolve. This post is for educational purposes only and does not contain legal advice. Our firm’s website on international child custody disputes may be a useful resource for those who want to learn more about this topic.