There are no fool-proof warning signs that your spouse or ex-spouse is thinking of taking your child across international borders, with or without your permission and knowledge. However, there are in fact many signs and signals that can provide you with insight that your spouse or former spouse is intending to abduct with your child. Most of all, trust your instincts. If you have reason to believe that your spouse is in the process or is contemplating the abduction of your child, you must not wait: contact your local police and a lawyer familiar with family law and custody matters. You may need to file an ex parte (an Emergency without notice filing) motion to the court of jurisdiction where the child lives, seeking court intervention prior to when the abduction or wrongful retention occurs. Under most laws, the judge will have to hear your application so long as you present enough strong and credible evidence that your spouse or ex spouse is planning to take your child across state or international borders.
The most obvious warning sign is if the other parent communicates in any way that they have intent or a desire to remove the child of the relationship out of the country. In most instances, if the other parent threatens you with the idea that they are going to abduct your child, the fact is that in most cases, the abduction is already planned and may be in progress.
1. Be aware of the possibility of any abduction. Although there are no foolproof warning signs for abduction risk, some indicators should not be ignored. Do not stick your head in the sand and pretend that your child is not at risk.
2. The vast majority of international child abductions occur by a parent who is determined to cause hardship and harm to the other parent. The instrument that they use in order to cause this harm is the child or children of the marriage. A significant number of leading therapist from around the world have stated in numerous reports that revenge is the primary and leading reason why one parent will try to end the other parent’s relationship with their own child. Therefore, if you are involved with a person who has jealous or revengeful tendencies, you must be aware that these characteristics are common in the vast majority of would-be parental child abductors.
3. If the issues raised in Section 2 are true in your situation and your spouse or former spouse has in the past used the child of your marriage or relationship to cause you harm, pain, and suffering, or, has tried to control and manipulate your actions, then your concern should be magnified ten-fold. If the same individual has family members in another country or has lived in another country and has expressed a desire or threat to move there with your child, your concern should be magnified one-hundred fold.
4. If there is evidence of previous abductions, disappearances, or threats to abduct the child by your spouse or ex-spouse, these indicators demonstrate that any new abduction threat is real and in more likelihood already planned.
5. If your spouse or ex-spouse has citizenship in another country and strong emotional or cultural ties to their country of origin.
6. Unexplainable removal of cash deposits and diminished assets, or unexplainable increases in credit card or bank debt.
7. Concealment of new credit cards or bank debt.
8. Concealed, hidden, and abrupt communication with individuals or family members living in a foreign country.
9. Concealed, hidden, and abrupt communication with a lawyer.
10. Frequent previous trips with child to a foreign country without other parent.
11. Family and friends living in a foreign country.
12. No strong ties to a child's home state.
13. Strong foreign support network.
14. No financial reason to stay.
15. Possible use of the child as a pawn in order to gain access to non-joint assets.
16. Engaged in planning activities such as quitting job; selling home; terminating lease; closing bank accounts or liquidating assets; hiding or destroying documents; or securing a passport, a birth certificate, or school medical records.
17. A history of marital instability, lack of cooperation with the other parent, domestic violence, or child abuse.
18. An announcement of an unexpected trip to another country with the child.
19. The taking of easily transportable high-valued items such as jewelry upon departing to another country.
20. Adamant unwillingness to leave the child behind with you while spouse travels to a foreign country.
21. Shipping of personal items to a foreign country.
22. A past tendency of your spouse or ex-spouse to relocate and live abroad.
23. In certain jurisdictions – whereas both parents have a joint-right to custody – it is conceivable that a parent possessing a right of custodial authority over the child (this can be joint or sole custody) can legally remove the child of the marriage/partnership to another country for an undetermined period of time (claiming a holiday or short-term trip) without needing permission or actually informing the other parent if a pre-existing travel agreement is not in place already with the court. Essentially, a parent exercising their right of custody over their child can legally remove the child of the marriage/partnership without permission from the other parent if a court order is not issued previously. Not surprisingly, many international parental child abductions occur when one parent takes the child of the marriage to another country for an alleged short ‘family visit’ – however, in reality that person has no intention of ever returning with the child to the place of habitual residency. What typically happens next in these scenarios is that the abducting parent, unknown to the left behind parent, files for a divorce in the country they have abducted to. The divorce motion and affidavit filed makes claim to all sorts of cruel and dangerous behavior against the spouse (thus the reason why they are able to file under an ex parte [without notice] motion). Once the divorce law suit is filed, the abducting parent usually will go underground with the assistance of family and/or friends who usually assisted in the planning of this act. It is critical to note that deception is a critical element in these typical scenarios: the left behind parent is left to believe that their partner and child are on a short vacation (typically to visit family of the partner) at the time of their departure. A few days or weeks later, reality sets in with either a phone call or a letter saying that the partner and child/children are not returning, and that a divorce action has been filed. So, even if you think you are happily married, it is greatly advised to have a legally binding and court registered travel agreement in place prior to either parent exercising a right of custody is granted permission to leave the country with your child.
24. Trust your instincts: if something feels wrong, it probably is. And remember that most international parental child abductions are carefully planned and typically involve the help of others.
25. BEWARE that the other parent may be trying to prepare an Article 13 Defense while remaining in the country prior to an abduction. This may include the other parent filing false police reports or social service reports against you. REMEMBER that if the international courts have reason to believe that the return of the chlld may put the child in grave danger, they will not order for a return to the country of origin under Article 13. The use of false reporting right prior to an international child abduction is a strong indicator that an abduction is planned.
26. If a parent living as an alien citizen of one country but has limited roots to that country and is intending to travel with the child abroad, the risks of an abduction are great. MORESO, if the parent who is planning to depart, say on a few week vacation, does not have the ability to purchase a return ticket back to the child's country of origin and/or does not have employment and/or does not have housing, then you can bet that upon departure for the so-called 'vacation', that parent is not returning. Remember, Intent and Sustainability issues are critical. If a person can't sustain themselves in the country that their child was born, and, they have no deep roots, why in the world would they want to stay?
28. If an alien-parent has deep connections to another country, and has deep connections to that country's senior government officials, there is a clear risk. Recently, I have been advising on a situation where the potential abductor has immediate family members in charge of overseeing a fleet of aircraft owned by a Middle East family (or you could say government). Obviously, access to aircraft and departing under immunity of a foreign government are very concerning.
28. For more information, please visit the Office Of Children's Issues website at: