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How can you prevent an international child abduction?

International child abductions happen for a very simple reason.

Foreign courts can be very favorable to the estranged spouses of U.S. residents when there's a child involved. If a child's parents can remove the child from the United States and get the court of his or her home nation to assert authority over the case, they can often win custody.

Plus, the foreign-born parent knows that the distance and language barriers are often serious impediments to the U.S.-based spouse. A lack of familiarity with the foreign legal system is yet another barrier.

How do you stop your child from being used as a pawn in an international power struggle?

Take these steps:

1. Be realistic about the dangers. Statistically, both mothers and fathers abduct their own children in custody battles -- and any parent who retains strong familial ties in another country can often find willing assistants.

2. Understand that your child's other parent does not need a letter of permission to remove your child from the country. Unless you have a court order that specifically prohibits taking the child outside of the United States without your consent, officials cannot stop the other parent from boarding a plane with your child.

3. Try to obtain a custody order that does prohibit the other parent from leaving the country with your child.

4. Provide copies of the custody order, once you have it, to local officials. Make sure that they understand that you have a real concern over the possibility of an abduction.

5. Be conscious of signs that an abduction is about to happen. If you become aware that your ex has put in a notice at his or her job, is selling off assets or has been spending a lot of time overseas (possibly setting up a new home or finding work), don't dismiss your fears. It's better to be cautious.

6. If your child is old enough, make sure that he or she knows how to contact you and other family members inside the U.S. Provide him or her with a phone card that can be used from anywhere in the world, just in case.

The harder you make it to effect an international abduction, the safer your child will ultimately be.

Source: Travel.State.Gove, "Prevention Tips," accessed March 06, 2018

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