Domestic Child Kidnapping & Child Recovery
Domestic child kidnapping & child recovery is an area of the security and investigation industry that is much talked about and glamorized but in reality can classed as criminal activity.
There are many cases where an estranged parent will take a child they do not have legal custody for and flee to a foreign country. These days’ international travel is not complicated as long as you have a valid passport and required visas, if required. If the estranged parent has a passport or papers for the child to travel all they have to do is cross a border and any legal custody judgments for the child are usually void as the local country laws usually take precedence. The Hague Child Abduction Convention is the international law that tends to be used for child custody disputes but how this is interpreted at local levels is another thing.
A single parent may have custody of their child in U.S. etc. but if their ex-partner is a citizen of say a European country and manages to kidnap and take the child to their own country and then applies for custody of the child there, the local courts will most probably will rule in their favor, after lengthy court proceedings. I have been asked quite a few times if I could go to various countries to recover children who have been taken by estranged parents. I am happy to provide advice and highlight the fact that if the parent I am talking too has legal custody in U.S. this might not apply in the country the child is in.
I know of one gentleman who had full legal custody of his child in the U.S. but his ex-wife during a un-supervised visitation with the child managed to get them on a plane and back the Western European country where she was from and lived. This gentleman who had 100% custody of the child in the US went to Europe, located the child and snatched the child in the street from one of his ex-wife’s family members. The local police arrested him before he made it to the airport and luckily for him they were very understanding. They explained that his ex-wife had started legal proceedings for the child in that country and what he had done could be classed as attempted kidnapping, but they understood his situation. They released him with the advice that if he tried it again he would be charged with attempted kidnapping and to go and retain a decent lawyer. From a legal point of view I expect the ex-wife’s lawyers would be making the most out of her ex-husbands kidnapping attempt to the courts as proof of why he should not have custody of the child.
I have also had clients whose children have been taken to countries in Eastern Europe and have been told by their ex-partners that if they ever entered the respective countries they would be arrested or killed. I told them to consider such threats very seriously as in many places the rights of locals take precedence over the rights of foreigners and law enforcement is for hire or can be paid to ignore things. A thousand dollars or so can influence a judge, put someone in jail, hospital or an unmarked grave.
Now, as for those companies claiming to be in the business of recovering children, well firstly apart from advertising they intend to break the law there are a few other things that can go wrong with their operations. A very well publicized recent child recovery attempt that went extremely wrong happened in the Lebanon and was being filmed and documented by a news crew for the Australian “60 Minutes” program. It would have been a very good publicity stunt if it worked but it didn’t! Check the below links for details.
- ’60 Minutes’ Australia fires producer over Beirut child abduction story
- Tara Brown child abduction fiasco in Lebanon ‘has cost Channel Nine $2 MILLION’ – while 60 Minutes crew may still face extradition for trial and three years in jail
I have heard stories and seen promotional videos etc. from people claim to go armed in to places like Mexico to rescue children. Well, from a business point of view these clients must have a lot of money to organize the logistics and execute such an operation as they would not be cheap. Also, in most countries, even Mexico, carrying firearms is illegal to start with and where would any weapons come from? Taken illegally from the U.S. or like the movies bought in some shady hotel room above a whore bar? Reality check, if you are caught in Mexico with illegal firearms by the police you will go to jail, if you are caught by Cartel members you will be killed. For more on working armed internationally check my article: Traveling with firearms and using them for self-defense
- U.S. Marine says he’d walked into Mexico before his arrest on gun charges
- ‘They were trying to help’: Armed anti-heroin crusaders arrested on way to ‘rescue’ girl in NYC
Now even if the child was snatched back successfully, those doing the operation would have committed the crime of kidnapping to start with, which in most places has a lengthy prison term attached. The child might be safely returned to the parent with custody in their respective country who hired you to perform the operation but, any arrest warrants and extradition requests will be in your name. When you combine the risk of being arrest, ending up in a 3rd world jail, the child being physical and psychologically harmed during the snatch, things are better left to embassy staff and trusted local attorneys.
As I always say and tell my clients, they need do everything they can to avoid any problematic situations. If a parent is involved in a child custody dispute, especially with a foreign national they need to always consider the worst case scenarios and put procedures in place so an abduction cannot happen and if it does law enforcement and the legal authorities are alerted ASAP.
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