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Preventing an international child abduction

The possibility of an international child abduction may be a concern for Pennsylvania parents who are going through a divorce from someone who has foreign ties. While the Hague Convention governs parental international child abductions, not every country is a signatory to it. Furthermore, even when a country is a signatory, the process of returning the child to the United States may still be a lengthy one involving negotiations.

There are certain times when an abduction is more likely to happen. During a legal waiting period for a custody agreement or a court order about custody or early in divorce proceedings are among them. The experience may be traumatic for a child who might be suddenly isolated in unfamiliar surroundings. Children may miss school, may be moved around in effort at concealment and may have their name and appearance changed. They may suffer long-term psychological effects as a result of an abduction including eating disorders, nightmares, mood swings and anxiety.

Parents frustrated with the speed of the negotiation with another country may attempt an extralegal solution. However, as tempting as it may be to go to the country to retrieve the child, it can complicate the proceedings. It could hamper negotiations, and the parent might even be imprisoned if a law is broken.

A concerned parent may want to put safeguards in place to help prevent an abduction. For example, it may be possible to have a third party hold the child's passport, or a requirement can be put in place to require the court to approve an overseas visit. The child might have relatives in another country that a parent does not want to prevent the child from seeing. It may also be possible to build up some safeguards around the child's trips overseas, such as regular contact, to keep the parent reassured.

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