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International parental abductions and what to do

An international child abduction by a parent is more likely to happen in the early stages of a divorce, while waiting for a custody order or during a conflict between parents. New Jersey parents who are concerned about one occurring might wonder how the State Department might assist them if such a thing happens.

In part, the response of the State Department may depend upon whether or not the country is a signatory to the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention was created in 1980 to deal with parental international abduction, and the United States is a signatory. However, both countries must be signatories for the Convention to apply.

The process of returning a child to the United States after a parental abduction usually requires negotiation, and parents may become frustrated and look into extrajudicial solutions. The problem is that this can hamper negotiations. Parents might even end up in jail if they have done something illegal based on the laws of the country they are in.

There are a number of things parents can do to help prevent an international abduction. They should notice whether the other parent makes any major changes in their life such as selling a home. The court can hold a child's passport, and if a parent has made abduction threats, requiring supervised visitation may be a possibility. A parent who is concerned about abduction but who does not want to cut the child off from family in another country might include detailed provisions in the parenting and custody agreements to address this concern. Finally, if the other parent does abduct the child, there are several steps that parent should take. They may want to talk to an attorney who might advise them to contact local police as well as the Office of Children's Issues at the State Department.

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