Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

What If My Child is Kidnapped from New Jersey to Another Country?

At the Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein, we frequently have to take swift and aggressive action when a client hires my firm as their child has been kidnapped from the jurisdiction of New Jersey to a foreign county.

This piece shall focus on the The Hague Convention and how other counties shall cooperation with the New Jersey Custody court order we shall obtain on your behalf.

800,000. That is the astronomical number, according to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, of children abducted in the US each year. As defined by the center, child abduction is the illegal taking of a minor out of the custody of his or her birth parent’s or legally appointed guardians. Although it is a prevalent issue our society faces, numerous actions are taken each year to prevent abduction or help recover those children who have be taken.

In 1976, nearly twenty-three countries worldwide came together to address this widespread issue. Together, the nations drafted a legal mechanism whose purpose was to deter specifically international child abduction. The international phenomena, soon after, was incorporated into the United States legal system. Today, the convention not only applies to the unlawful removal of a child, but also to the retention of a child. It is a way for parents to get their abducted children back as safely and quickly as possible.     

The scope of the convention

Today the Hague Convention serves two major purposes. The first major objective of the convention is to guarantee that children under the age of sixteen, who are wrongfully removed from their parent’s custody, are quickly returned back. Additionally, the convention strives to ensure that children being held in any state that is a member of the convention and not the child’s home be returned promptly back to his or her parents. The second major purpose of the convention is to make certain that custody rights of one state are adhered to and honored by all other participating member states.

In order to best serve the interests of the children and their grieving parents, the convention must first determine whether or not the removal and retention of a child is indeed wrongful. One example of wrongful conduct is if the removal or retention violates the rights of custody associated with the child or his or her parents, either jointly or separately, under the law of the state in which the child permanently lives.

The return of the child

Pursuant to Article 8 of the Convention’s treaty, any person or institution that claims that a child has been wrongfully removed or retained in violation of his or her custody rights can apply for help in guaranteeing the safe and prompt return of the child. When filling out an application to secure such a return, information regarding both the child and applicant’s identity must be provided. This type of information includes the child’s name, age, height, weight, hair color, eye color, social security number, citizenship, and current home address. If the person applying for the return of the child has any idea of who the alleged kidnapper may be, that information should be provided as well. Additionally, the applicant will have to provide the child’s birth date so the convention is aware of the age of the child they are looking to securely return. Other important information that the applicant should provide is any information relating to the child’s whereabouts and identity of the person with whom the child is assumed to be.   

Although the convention does strive to safely return home each and every abducted child to his or her parents, there are cases in which the administrative authority of the state in which the child is being held will not allow his or her return. One such instance in which a state might not allow the child to be returned would be if the return poses a detrimental risk to the child. If the return of the child could potentially expose him or her to physical or mental harm, or create a dangerous situation for the child, the return would be impermissible. Another situation in which the administrative authority might refuse to order the return of the child is if it finds that the child is opposed to returning home. If this is the case, the child must be of a certain age and be mature enough to make such a large decision on his or her own. Additionally, any information related to the child’s social background would be considered if he or she refuses to return back to his or her original home.

The costs associated with the convention

The convention was designed so that a parent or guardian seeking the return of their child would not be financially inconvenienced. It is the responsibility of the child’s taker to pay the administrative authority upon his or her return. Additionally, the person responsible for the abduction would pay any expenses that the child’s parent or guardian incurs. These expenses include travel expenses to the country the child was removed to, costs incurred for pinpointing the child’s exact location, costs associated with returning the child, and the cost of hiring an attorney for the child’s parent or guardian.