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Department of State steps in when children taken overseas

A parent of a child in Kentucky who was taken out of the country by the other parent needs to seek help from the U.S. Department of State. When a parent violates the custodial rights of the other parent by removing the child from the country, federal law has been broken. Statutes label the crime as international parental kidnapping, and a conviction could lead to a three-year prison sentence.

Once the State Department has been notified, federal officials will attempt to secure the release of the child by negotiating with authorities in the other country. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction guides the process for return from countries that have signed the agreement. Parents are cautioned not to travel to the other country and take the child back. This could result in criminal charges in the foreign country and impede negotiations meant to regain custody of the child.

Children from failing relationships are most at risk of abduction during the early stages of a divorce or after a heated argument. The abduction could result in long-term emotional damage to the child because of the abrupt removal from familiar surroundings.

A person who desires child custody should make an effort to limit the turmoil in a child's life during the transition. An attorney could advise a parent during negotiations that determine a schedule for custody or parenting time. An attorney could explain how the court will want an agreement that fulfills the best interests of the child and steer conversations with the other parent toward appropriate compromises. If necessary, an attorney could insulate the person from direct confrontations with the other parent and perhaps diffuse hostility so that an agreement can emerge.

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