Divorced parents often worry their ex might abscond with their children, taking them across state lines. But parents who are divorced from foreign nationals have a greater fear, international child abduction. If your ex takes your child to a foreign country, the legal hurdles you face in establishing timesharing and getting your child returned are extremely challenging, time-consuming and costly. This is certainly one instance where an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. So, if you’re concerned about the threat of international abduction, here are some steps you can take:
- Get an appropriate timesharing order — Ideally, your timesharing order should give you sole legal custody and place restrictions on the other parent’s overnight rights. At the minimum, it should expressly rule out the possibility of relocation and international travel. If your ex requests a foreign vacation with your child, tell the court of your fear that your ex has no intention of returning.
- Place restrictions on parenting time — A court order requiring supervised visits and prohibiting travel by car with the child can help prevent your ex from taking the child to a point of departure out of the country.
- Note changes in your ex’s life — Many foreign nationals are content to stay in the United States and even pursue citizenship. But if your ex shows signs of preparing to leave, such as quitting a job or being fired, selling a home, and/or closing a bank account, you should suspect he or she has plans to leave the country.
- U.S. passports — You should take possession of your child’s U.S. passport and then contact theU.S. Department of State to enroll your child in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. If your ex submits an application for a U.S. passport for your child, the State Department will alert you.
- Foreign passports — If your child has dual citizenship, your ex can apply to the foreign country’s embassy for a child’s passport. You should contact that embassy and inquire about any programs they have for preventing child abduction.
- Instruct your child — Giving your child age-appropriate instructions on what to do if, for example, your ex takes them to the airport can make all the difference in your child’s safety.
- Act quickly on your suspicions — Time is of the essence. If you fear your child has been abducted, contact your local police immediately and ask that your child be entered into the FBI National Crime Information Center right away. Law enforcement does not issue AMBER Alerts unless a child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death, but they can take other measures, such as contacting airport authorities to investigate outgoing flights.
Anxiety over a timesharing dispute takes on an added dimension when there is a threat of international flight. Make sure you get reliable legal advice from an experienced attorney so you can implement a plan that fits your circumstances.
For more trustworthy advice on child custody issues, consult the dedicated Tampa-area family law attorneys at the Law Offices of K. Dean Kantaras, P.A.