International Family Abduction Prevention Tips From the U.S. Department of State

Risk Factors:

The American Bar Association, has reported that the chances of an international abduction may increase when a parent has one or more of the following factors:

  1. Your child has been previously abducted or someone threatened to abduct them.
  2. You have no strong ties to the state where your child was born.
  3. Your spouse has friends or family living abroad.
  4. Your spouse has a strong support network including family and friends.
  5. Your spouse is financially independent, does not have a regular job or can earn a living anywhere.
  6. The potential abductor recently quit a job, sold a home or terminated a lease, closed a bank account or liquidated other assets.
  7. The potential abductor has a history of instability in marital issues or does not cooperate in parental duties.
  8. The potential abductor has a prior criminal record.

How Mediation Can Help:

If your spouse has any one of the factors listed above or you suspect your child is at risk for abduction, you need to seek immediate assistance from a counseling or mediating source. Experts suggest that parents should keep lists of information about your former partner and his or her friends and family, both in the U.S. and abroad. Retain other important information such as passport numbers, immigration status, and visa work permit numbers.

Parents who feel threatened, have strong belief about raising their children or have problems with certain aspects of American culture, may be more likely to act on an international child abduction plan. A custody mediator may help defuse tense situations and refocus the attention of the parents on what is best for the child. Some mediators also specialize in helping to develop positive cross-cultural, child-rearing strategies.

Custody Orders:

Getting a current custody order is an important piece in preventing the possible abduction of your child. Find a qualified attorney as soon as possible to assist you in obtaining sole custody of your child. Joint custody orders are not recommended for families with citizenship in more than one country. If joint custody is awarded in such an instance, be sure that you are awarded the role of primary residential custodian.

Be sure that the custody order specifies exact times and locations for visitation. Set up a legally enforceable visitation schedule for the other parent.

Passport Limitations:

Children under 14 require that both parents give permission in order for a U.S. passport to be issued. Even more important, federal law requires that the child also appear in person with the parents, and parents present acceptable proof of parental relationship to the child.

If there is a question, the U.S. Department of State can tell you whether or not a U.S. passport has been issued to your child. If not, you should immediately request that your child’s name be entered into the U.S. Department of State’s Passport Alert system. The system will then allow for notification if anyone applies for a U.S. passport for your child.

The U.S. Department of State contact information is as follows:

U.S. Department of State
Office of Children’s Issues
SA-29 Fourth Floor
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520-2818
Telephone 202-736-9124
Fax 202-736-9133

All requests should include the following information:

  1. your child’s full name,
  2. your child’s date and place of birth;
  3. A certified copy of any court orders relating to the custody or travel restrictions of the child;
  4. Address and telephone number(s) where you can be reached.

For more information about passport requirements for children younger than 14 see: … s_834html.

For more information about the Passport Issuance Alert Program see: … _554.html.

If you wish to obtain further information on the Hague Abduction Convention and international child abduction, you can find more information from The Bureau of Consular Affairs with the U.S. Department of State at:

About The National Academy for Child Abduction Prevention Associates, LLC:

Founded in 2013 by Roy M. Doppelt, Esq., the National Academy for Child Abduction and Prevention Associates, LLC is an Academy of family law attorneys advocating prevention of child abduction through public education and professional collaboration. We believe that educating the public about kidnapping and its prevention is a paramount duty of attorneys who represent family law clients.

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