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Child Abductions During Custody Disputes: An International Problem

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Child Abductions During Custody Disputes: An International Problem

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Most, if not all of us, in New Jersey remember the case of Sean Goldman, a child abducted from New Jersey by his mother and kept in Brazil for many years while his father sought his return through “The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction”.

Now, a Colorado father, in a similar position, is hopeful that he is seeing the light at the end of his almost four year battle to have his daughter returned from Argentina. This is the country to which the children’s mother took the girls after abducting them following a negative Court ruling after a “thirteen month” custody trial. According to the story issued by CNN, while the Colorado father, David Burns, is anticipating the return of his children soon, he has spent his “life savings” obtaining this result, which is still not yet completed. Mr. Burns is also in a position where his children, who were 7 and 5 when they were abducted, have now grown, without his involvement. He has no idea how he has been “characterized” to the girls during their time in Argentina.

Pending before the Senate Foreign Relations committee for it’s review, is legislation passed by the House of Representatives, seeking to stiffen the penalties and expand the sanctions the United States can rely on to leverage the return of children taken in violation of the existing laws. Based on the statement issued by the Committee Chairman, “Each year over 1,000 children are abducted from American homes and taken to a foreign country.”

It remains to be seen whether the existing statistics, costs to the left behind parent, and other procedural aspects of this area of the law will be altered, if and when the pending legislation is codified. However, in the interim, it is important for parents to be aware of the risks associated with international travel in contested custody matters, as well as the level of compliance other countries maintain when faced with a parental abduction. Each year, the United States Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues is required under Public Law 105277, Section 2803 to submit to Congress a report on compliance by treaty partner countries. This report identifies the State Department’s opinions respecting the cooperation received from other countries among other information. When dealing with the potential for this type of situation to occur, it is important to know the resources available and the alternatives for security that can be requested of the Court.

About the author: Brian E. Shea, Esq. is an attorney with Meyerson, Fox, Mancinelli & Conte, P.A. in Montvale, New Jersey.  Brian’ concentrates his practice on representing clients in divorce and matrimonial matters.

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