America is an incredibly diverse country, and many parents have citizenship ties to other countries. When parents divorce, there is often a whirlwind of strong emotions, resentments, and other hostilities that can sometimes drive a parent to desperation. A parent who has lost custody or who has only received visitation rights may go to the extreme and abduct a child. If this is a concern for you, there are a few steps you can take to limit this possibility.
Keep Your Children’s Passports Secure
If your children have passports and you think your ex is a flight risk, keep their passports with you at all times. It is very difficult to travel today without proper identification, and you can actually arrange for passport security during the custody agreement. An attorney can hold the children’s passports for safekeeping, or you can petition the judge to confiscate the kids’ passports from your ex if you have evidence he or she intends to abduct the children.
Make Travel Part of the Custody Agreement
If you believe your ex may try to abduct your children, you can request a provision in your custody agreement that prohibits out-of-state travel. This way, your ex must have your permission to take your children out of the state for things like vacations. If your ex violates this part of the agreement you can move swiftly to contact the judge and have police involved, if necessary.
Keep Your Children’s Important Documents Secure
In addition to passports, you should also keep your children’s other personal information secure. This can include birth certificates, Social Security cards, school records, medical records, and photos of your children. It’s important to keep both close-up photos of your children’s faces as well as full-body photos in case you need them to help police locate them.
You can also proactively prevent abduction by contacting the embassy of your spouse’s home country. Send a certified copy of the custody agreement to the appropriate embassy to let them know of the judgment in case your ex decides to take an opposing position in his or her home country. This isn’t always viable for countries that are not part of the Hague Convention, but it can help in the event your ex does abduct your children. You may also want to have the custody agreement professionally translated into the language of your ex’s home country.
Stay Connected with Your Kids
Smartphones are easily accessible and most children can figure out how to use them. Make sure you give your kids phones with your home and work numbers programmed into them so they can easily get in touch with you. You can also enable the GPS locators on their phones so you can track them, and there are several programs for this available through smartphone apps or your cellular provider.
While smartphones for your kids are a great idea, it’s also important to teach them how to directly dial you from another phone in case they lose the phones or your ex takes them. You may also want to set up email accounts for your kids so they can contact you that way.
If you believe your ex has abducted your children, it’s important to move as quickly as possible to get them back. Contact the police and the judge handling your custody agreement right away. If there is any delay, this could allow enough time for your ex to leave the state, therefore leaving the police’s jurisdiction. Once you report a missing child, the information goes to the National Crime Information Center, which is one of the largest systems used by law enforcement to locate missing kids.
If you follow these steps, you can hopefully avoid any abduction incidents, and if they do occur, you can be prepared to handle them and get your kids back.