International Parental Kidnapping

International Parental Kidnapping

It is not uncommon for some parents with overseas ties to consider fleeing the country with their children. Taking a child to another country to deny custody to the other parent is a crime. Similarly, many divorces can be complicated when one of the spouses resides or relocates to a foreign country.

Multiple state, federal, foreign, and international laws and treaties come into play when there is a custody dispute between parties in, or citizens of, different countries. Determining which country’s laws apply to divorce, custody, and support is very complex. It is critical for parents to understand all of their rights in these types of cases.

Attorney for International Parental Kidnapping in Houston, TX

Are you dealing with a possible international child abduction issue in Southeast Texas? You will want to contact [firm] for assistance throughout the entire process.

Houston divorce lawyer Michael Sydow represents clients filing for divorce, custody, support, or modification in communities throughout Fort Bend County and Harris County. Call [phone] today to have our attorney review your case and answer all of your legal questions during a free initial consultation.

Overview of International Parental Kidnapping in Harris County

International Parental Kidnapping Laws in Texas

A number of different federal and international laws and treaties come into play in an international parental kidnapping case. Many cases involve the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international treaty that provides a legal framework for securing the prompt return of children to their countries of habitual residence.

Other federal laws that may also be involved in international kidnapping cases include:

  • International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), 22 U.S.C. § 9001 — Federal law implementing Hague Convention and establishing procedures for filing Hague Convention cases in courts in the United States;
  • International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA), 6 U.S.C. § 241 — Federal law dealing with prevention of international child abduction;
  • Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), Chapter 152 of the Texas Family Code — Uniform Act drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws that vests exclusive, continuing jurisdiction for child custody cases in a child’s home state;
  • Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), 28 U.S.C. § 1738A — Establishes national standards for child custody jurisdiction; and
  • International Parental Kidnapping Act (IPKA), 18 U.S.C. § 1204 — Criminalizes removal of a child from the United States with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights.

Federal International Parental Kidnapping Penalties in Harris County

The passage and enactment of IPKA in 1993 made it a federal offense for a person to remove a child from the United States, or attempt to do so, or retain a child (who has been in the United States) outside the United States with intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights. Individuals who are convicted of this crime can be sentenced to up to three years in prison and order to pay a fine of up to $250,000.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 1204(c), it is an affirmative defense against international parental kidnapping charges that:

  • the defendant acted within the provisions of a valid court order granting the defendant legal custody or visitation rights and that order was obtained pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act or the UCCJEA and was in effect at the time of the offense;
  • the defendant was fleeing an incidence or pattern of domestic violence; or
  • the defendant had physical custody of the child pursuant to a court order granting legal custody or visitation rights and failed to return the child as a result of circumstances beyond the defendant’s control, and the defendant notified or made reasonable attempts to notify the other parent or lawful custodian of the child of such circumstances within 24 hours after the visitation period had expired and returned the child as soon as possible.

International Parental Kidnapping Resources in Texas

Global Missing Children’s Network — The Global Missing Children’s Network is a multilingual database of missing children from around the world launched as a joint program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children. The United States is one of 25 participating countries in the Global Missing Children’s Network. Find information about what to do if you think your child is missing and important actions to take.

International Parental Kidnapping | CRIMINAL-CEOS | Department of Justice (DOJ) — On this section of the DOJ website, you can find a Citizen’s Guide to Federal Law on International Parental Kidnapping. You can also learn more about legal hurdles and the return of a kidnapped child to the United States and the role of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS). As the website notes, child custody and visitation matters are handled by local and states authorities, and not by the federal government.

International Parental Child Abduction | U.S. Department of State — The Office of Children’s Issues within the U.S. Department of State prevents international parental child abduction, helps children and families involved in abduction cases, and promotes the objectives of the Hague Abduction Convention. Visit this website to find tips on international parental child abduction and immediate steps you can take to prevent abduction. You can also file a Hague application and find a child abduction FAQ (frequently asked questions).

Find an International Parental Kidnapping Lawyer in Houston, TX

If your child has been removed from the country without your consent, it is in your best interest to immediately retain legal counsel. [firm] can work to have your child returned to the United States and enforce your custody rights.

Michael Sydow is an experienced divorce attorney in Houston who assists individuals in communities throughout Harris County and Fort Bend County. You can have our lawyer provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call [phone] or complete an online contact form to set up a free, no obligation consultation.