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Bill would combat growing problem of international abductions

While it may seem hard to believe, international child abductions are a real and utterly devastating problem for many parents here in the U.S. In fact, statistics from the U.S. State Department show that there were an unbelievable 7,000 such abductions from 2008 to 2012.

In the typical scenario, a parent will defy a custody order issued by a judge here in the U.S. and flee with their children to a nation that is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on international child abductions, an international treaty that requires all signatory nations to promptly return abducted children to the place where they are supposed to legally reside.

This can create a legal nightmare for the parent whose children were wrongfully taken from them, as they are forced to deal with uncooperative foreign governments that refuse to send the kids home or provide them with any type of legal relief.

The problem has been particularly acute among U.S.-born fathers whose former spouses -- Japanese citizens -- have fled without court permission to their native country, where the courts are well known for almost never recognizing foreign family court orders or granting child custody rights to a foreign father.

Fortunately, help may be on the horizon for these so-called "left-behind parents" as the House of Representatives is currently considering a bill by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) that would push the State Department and even the President to take more definitive action concerning international child abductions.

Specifically, Smith's legislation would empower the President to take certain actions in the event a nation is refusing to resolve international abduction cases or showing a pattern of noncompliance, including economic sanctions.

In addition, the bill would mandate that the State Department provide Congress with complete statistics on international child abductions, and secure "memoranda of understanding" with those nations that have not signed or refuse to comply with the 1980 Hague convention.

It remains to be seen whether Smith's bill, which has broad bipartisan support, will gain the necessary traction in Congress.

Stay tuned for updates ...

Those fathers with concerns about child custody, visitation rights or relocations here in Texas should strongly consider speaking with an experienced fathers' rights attorney dedicated to protecting their best interests in negotiations and contested hearings.

Source: The Record, "Bill may help 'left-behind parents' in global child custody fights," Herb Jackson, Dec. 11, 2013

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