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Preventing International Child Abductions


Parental kidnapping is the most prevalent form of child abduction in the United States. Although many children are taken to another state, when a child is taken out of the country, the situation becomes more difficult because of jurisdictional, legal and linguistic complications.

There are several things a parent can do to reduce the likelihood of a parental abduction. The U.S. Department of State has a wealth of information regarding international child abductions. As part of a divorce, a custody order or decree is entered. Here are some important things to remember about this custody order:

  • Make sure you obtain several certified copies of the order from the court.
  • The order can include a statement prohibiting the child from traveling abroad without your permission or the permission of the court.
  • Terms of the Hague Abduction Convention can be included, which apply if a child is taken to a country that partners with the U.S. under the Convention. In response to parental kidnappings, countries have increasingly partnered together under the Hague Treaty on Child Abduction.
  • If the other parent has significant ties to a foreign country, you can request that the court require the parent to post a bond as a deterrent.

Under most circumstances, both parents’ signatures are required for passports to be issued to children under 16. However, a parent can also ask to be included in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program, which enables the State Department to notify you or your attorney if a passport application for the child is received.

If you are facing custody issues, or if the above provisions were not included in a prior custody order, consult a knowledgeable New York divorce attorney to learn about your legal options.