Although summer has come to a close, lots of families continue to hit the roads (and even the seas and air) on vacation over long weekends, holidays and school vacations. Most divorced families agree upon a parenting plan which provides for each parent to have regular parenting time, as well as holiday, school vacation and summer parenting time. For most families, transitions will be routine. But, have you ever thought of what happens if one parent takes a child, whether for their regular parenting time, or vacation, and fails to return them?
Now, if it’s just a few hours, that’s one thing. If a parent is habitually late, there are remedies for that. A parent can even be held in contempt for that behavior! But what if a parent takes a child on vacation, and purposefully fails to return them? Even takes them outside the country? Below are our three keys to child safety.
Prevention is the solid way to avoid any parent’s worst nightmare. Ideally, this is the first method of defense. If there have been threats to remove or wrongfully retain a child outside the country, notify the Probate and Family Court that has jurisdiction. The court or counsel can order to hold passports in escrow. This is especially helpful when one parent may be a citizen elsewhere, have dual citizenship, be trying to return to a homeland or remove to another jurisdiction.
In high-risk cases if one party is threatening to take a child to a non-Hague Convention country there should be a court order in place that precludes any travel to that country. In the most serious cases, the order can ban travel even outside of your state.
Talk to the kids about what to do if they feel unsafe in a situation. If the child is old enough, it may be wise to give them a smartphone with tracking enabled. In the unfortunate case that they are taken, not only will they have the ability to communicate to a safe adult, but location tracking will aid the authorities in locating that child.
When there are serious concerns, it can’t hurt to put the town police on notice for the towns where the child resides, as well as school and other care providers. Above all, make sure that the child knows how to reach you in an emergency, and that they know to ask a trusted adult for help if they do not feel safe or if they think something is wrong.
3. The Hague Convention
If all the prevention and communication methods fail, and a child is illegally detained in another country, the Hague Convention provides divorced and non-divorced parents alike with a procedure to follow. These guidelines help return children who are wrongfully retained in another Hague convention country or wrongfully removed to another Hague convention country. While this treaty is a valuable tool, ensure that you have experienced counsel assisting you throughout the process, since Hague Convention matters can be complicated.
Enjoy the start of the school year as we lead into fall and may it be safe!