What to do if your child is abducted

CARI – Child Abduction Recovery International
How to get your child back if they’ve been abducted to a foreign Country?
Each has their own thoughts and ideas on what to do when your child gets abducted. There are a number of steps to you can take and we outline some of the most vital steps below. It is the hardest thing to have your child or kids abducted and then to have to fight to get them back without a solid or reliable system in place to do it makes the nightmare rollercoaster left behind parents experience even tougher to ride.
The First Steps in Dealing with an International Child Abduction
Although you can never guess that someone will abduct your child there are many things you can do when faced with a recent international abduction of your child.
You are hurt, angry, confused and worried about what to do, what will happen and will you ever see your child again. These are normal feelings for any parent who has had their child or children taken from them.
Although many of these emotions will remain with you throughout the process you will be best served (and your children as well) by doing the following:
Be strong, get going, become informed and get the process to have your children returned to you started as soon as possible. Many abductors see it as a game and use the children as weapons or tools in order to hurt you. Be careful doing research on the internet as the web (mostly Facebook) is full of groups private or open and chat rooms that often give incorrect information or they are part of a scam. Contacting CARI can help you be pointed in the right direction and avoid the known scams and people to avoid. Whenever you have vulnerable people whether a parent or not there are always frauds and scammers out their preying on them.
Preparing Your International Child Abduction Case:
The following things are vital to your case as the wrong move may cause your case to be lost.
The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction which governs abductions to other signature countries clearly states that you must have been exercising your custodial rights at the time of the abduction as well as that you must not have consented to or acquiesced to the abduction.
The abductor will most often say anything they can to win their case including that you had an “agreement” or that you “weren’t taking care of your child” or that you “were fine with them taking the child” or even far worse, that you “are a harm to the child”.
It is vital that you never give your consent to the abduction after it happens and if you provided only permission for a temporary leave that you have this information clearly documented. Although the burden of proof is on the abductor it can at times be necessary or beneficial to clearly show the court that the other side is not telling the truth.
Often just filing The Hague Convention application is enough to show that you have not acquiesced however it is important that you don’t give them permission to remain. Abduction by retention is the number one way children are being abducted by parents.
It will also be important to show that you had been exercising your right of custody prior to the abduction by showing that you provided things like food, money, clothing, schooling, medical care and that you visited or lived with the child, among other things.
It will also be important to amass what evidence you can about the behavior of the abducting parent towards the child, such as any issues they had with alcohol, drugs, abuse of you or the child, criminal history, receipt of medical treatment (especially for psychological or psychiatric reasons). But please do not lie as in most cases CARI deals with parents will unfortunately lie to great lengths to get their way. Don’t to it as it will come back on you in court without you showing any evidence to back up your allegations.
The courts can refuse to return the child if the abductor can show that there is a “grave risk” if the child is returned or that it will be returned to an “intolerable situation”. As we mentioned earlier, in most cases the abducting parent will make up stories of how the left-behind parent was a vicious abuser of the taking-parent, of the child or children or was a criminal or a drunk or a drug user. It will be important for you to obtain any records against the abducting parent as well as any police reports or medical reports that stem from claims they make against you or which you have made against them.
Costs of Fighting a Hague Abduction Convention Case:
This is the one thing victim parents find the toughest. Having lawyers tell parents incorrect things, being scammed by lawyers in some cases are just a couple of hurdles. Although the Hague Convention states that all court costs must be paid by the State to which the application is made, there will be many other costs which are not covered, which will be on you. These can include hiring CARI to locate your child as well as costs for the translation of documents, and if you plan to travel to the foreign country there will be expenses for travel, lodging and living. CARI has seen parents fall deep into depression and bankruptcy as a result of their children being abducted.
As the court will be hearing the case in the abducted too country located in the area where the child is to be found, the language of the court will be often not understandable and you must have a local attorney who is authorized to practice law as your legal counsel in the abducted to country.
We strongly advise against it, but you can choose to not hire an attorney but you will then leave it up to the State Prosecutor to prosecute your case and they can change with each court hearing! To have solid representation by an experienced Hague Convention attorney is vital to winning these cases. As amazing as it may sound, very often the judges may not be familiar with the Hague Convention, having never tried one or having no real knowledge of the Convention or its terms. Also, as this will be held in a family or juvenile Court, the judges are used to trying cases involving custody so they often lead with “the best interests of the child” which is contrary to the Hague Convention itself. This is why it is vital for an attorney who knows both the local courts and the Hague Convention to represent you because they can actually inform the court as to the necessary differences between custody and Hague proceedings.
According to the Hague Convention each Member State must have a Central Authority to handle such cases. Although you can also file your application through any member State’s Central Authority and even directly to the foreign Central Authority.
NONE Hague Countries:
For none Hague Convention countries your first and most important step is to immediately get into contact with a licenced experienced attorney in the abducted to country. Lawyers in your country can do very little in these cases where countries are not signed up to the Hague Convention, remember that before you fork out thousands of dollars on a lawyer that is not needed!
We cannot reiterate enough how important time is in abduction cases. The longer you leave things the harder it will be to have your abducted child returned. The truth is some organisations and charities ignore or fail to tell a victim parent is that there are so many loop holes in the Hague Convention and even articles in the Hague that abductors use to their advantage. Get in contact immediately with a lawyer in that abducted to country!
This is a short list based on our 17 year experience dealing with International Parental Child Abduction cases and of the ways in which to prepare and the things that you should be prepared to expect. Please seek independent legal advice about your individual case or contact CARI and we’ll help you.
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