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Preventing international child abductions: Tips you can use

One of the worst threats your ex-partner can issue in the heat of anger is, “I’ll take the kids and you’ll never see them again!”

Most of the time, that’s an idle threat. It isn’t that easy, these days, to simply “pick up and run” with the children to another state without attracting the attention of the authorities.

When your spouse has international connections, however, that threat can seem particularly ominous. You know that they have family members and another whole community in another country, and you’re genuinely worried about their intentions — particularly because you’re fighting over cultural or religious issues.

Here’s what you can do to protect your children:

  1. Get your existing court order ready or obtain one. If you don’t have a court order regarding custody, it’s time to get one. If you do, it’s time to get it out. The police often can’t take any action on your behalf to stop the removal of your child from the state by the child’s other parent without it.
  2. Secure your child’s passport. If your child has dual citizenship, you may need to contact that country’s embassy or consulate to prevent your ex from obtaining a foreign passport through that country’s laws. This can be particularly useful if the other country participated in the Hague Abduction Convention, which generally obligates them to respect custody orders from other countries in the agreement.
  3. Know the warning signs that an abduction is imminent. If your ex quits their job, sells their home or puts their possessions in storage, they may be getting prepared to run.
  4. Contact local law enforcement. You should let them know what is happening and give them copies of your custody orders.

Finally, talk to an attorney with experience in parental abductions. Your children are precious to you, and you shouldn’t have to live in fear all of the time that their other parent will disappear with them.

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