HOW TO GUARD AGAINST INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION After a divorce, many foreign born exes head back to where they came from originally. That is usually not a problem. It becomes a problem when the ex, who is also parent to children they had with you, decide to take little Johnny and Proserpina along for the ride – without your knowledge and consent. Believe me, this happens more often than you know. The U.S. Department of State, under the tutelage of Hilary Clinton, is the agency to go to when you have a child that’s been abducted by a former spouse and taken to a foreign country. I was on the Department’s site this morning and I actually got a lot of useful information that I may have already shared on this blog but is worth repeating. One thing definitely worth repeating is the importance of having a custody decree that clearly spells out the parameters of your rights and that of your spouse post-divorce.
According to the Department policies, you might want to have the judge order that your spouse is forbidden to travel with the child without your express consent and you may also want the judge to order your spouse to post a bond prior to leaving the country with your child. It also advises, and I wholeheartedly agree, that you give certified copies of your custody orders to your child’s school or any other personnel who is vested with your child’s care, so that they know at all times what the limits of custody have been put in place for the non-custodial parent.
With regard to the passport, U.S. law does require two parents’ signature to get a valid passport but if your child already has a passport prior to divorce, as the custodial parent, you want to get that in your possession and you may even want it to be kept by the courts or at the office of your attorney. Because airport personnel can’t police the child’s exit from the country so long as there is a valid passport for the child, and U.S. law does not allow a “revocation” of a valid passport once it’s been issued.
CHILDREN’S PASSPORT ISSUANCE ALERT PROGRAM
You may also ask that your child’s name be entered into the State Department’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP). Entering your child into the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program will enable the Department to notify you or your attorney if an application for a U.S. passport for the child is received anywhere in the United States or at any U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. If you have a court order that either grants you sole custody, joint legal custody, or prohibits your child from traveling without your permission or the permission of the court, the Department may refuse to issue a new or renewal U.S. passport for your child. The Department may not, however, revoke a passport that has already been issued to the child. There is also no way to track the use of a passport once it has been issued, since there are no exit controls for people leaving the U.S. If your child already has a passport, you should take steps to ensure that it is kept from a potential abductor by asking the court or attorneys to hold it.
For more on this issue, check out the page on the U.S. Department of State here.