If your child is at risk of being abducted to a foreign country, you need to be vigilant about your rights, who to call, and what to do if an abduction occurs or is about to occur.
There are a number of federal laws and programs designed to prevent the wrongful removal of children from the United States. The U.S. Department of State provides a summary of federal and international prevention tools on its website.
The Department of State operates the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program, which alerts parents if anyone applies for a passport for a minor child registered in the Department's Passport Lookout System. This program provides parents advance warning if someone is planning international travel with the minor child. A parent can register any child that is a U.S. Citizen by completing an entry request form.
The Department of State also operates an Emergency Hotline for abductions that are in progress where the child is being abducted by a family member and the child is not yet abroad.
If your child has already been removed from the country, Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs can open an International Parental Child Abduction Case. The Bureau of Consular Affairs may also be able to use its resources to assist you in locating your child.
If your child has already been removed from the United States, you may be able to seek relief under international law. Currently, there are 72 signatories to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. If your child is under 16 years of age and abducted to a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention, you may be able to obtain a return order under the Convention. The Hague Conference on Privation International Law publishes an outline summarizing the child abduction aspects of the Hague Convention.
If your child is abducted to a country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, you may be able to use that foreign country's legal system to regain custody of your child.
The Department of State operates an Attorney Network, which consists of attorneys with Hague Convention return and access cases.
Lastly, you can ask authorities to file criminal charges against the parent who abducted your child. The International Parental Kidnapping Act of 1993 makes it a federal crime to remove a child from the United States or retain a child outside the United States with the intent of obstructing the lawful exercise of parental rights.
If you need more information about actions to take to prevent or respond to an international child abduction, The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the American Bar Association have made the following publication available: Family Abduction: Prevention and Response. The Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention also publishes A Family Resource Guide on International Parental Kidnapping. Both of these publications are full of helpful information.
If you are in Florida, you should be aware of remedies under Florida law to deter the risk of international child abduction or parental kidnapping. You should also consult an experienced Florida child custody attorney.