When does international parental kidnapping happen?

Not all divorces are alike. Certain cases are straightforward, but others have fierce disputes with grave consequences.

These conflicts could happen due to disagreements regarding property division, spousal support or child custody. Sometimes, one parent could unlawfully take the child to a foreign country because of the dispute.

When this happens, it could be an international parental kidnapping offense punishable by federal law. The parent carries out this violation if they meet the following qualifications:

  • Removed the child from the United States or attempted to take the child to a foreign country
  • Had the intent to impede another parent’s custodial rights of the child

Individuals other than the parent could also commit this crime if they meet these conditions. If proven guilty, they could face up to three years of imprisonment, depending on the circumstances.

How can the child return to the United States?

Prosecutors can go after the violator and convict them of the crime. However, finalizing the child’s custodial decisions and return might take time.

In this matter, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction comes into play, leading to negotiations between the parent in the country and the parent who took the child overseas. However, it could only apply if this policy covers the foreign country where the child is.

During the process, the U.S. Department of State helps facilitate the child’s return with help from overseas officials and authorities. They can also help regarding custody and immigration matters relevant to the kidnapping’s circumstances and expediting welfare checks on the child abroad.

Parents might feel compelled to travel on their own to recover their child. However, this action could violate regulations under the foreign country’s authority, leading to getting arrested and receiving jail time.