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Dangers of international child abductions

Massachusetts residents may be interested to learn that a hearing is scheduled for May 18 in an international abduction case that has taken more than 10 years to come to trial. According to the prosecution in this case, the mother took her 8-year-old daughter to Costa Rica illegally and lived there with her second husband. She returned to New Hampshire after the child turned 18. She and her second husband are now facing charges of witness tampering and custodial interference.

There have been a number of other prominent international child abduction cases. In one case, a boy was taken to Brazil by his mother in 2004 and returned to his father in the United States in 2009. In another, a woman and two other people are facing charges of conspiracy and international federal kidnapping after the woman dissolved her civil partnership and took the couple's daughter to Central America.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith was able to push through legislation in July 2014 that changes how international child abductions are dealt with. In addition to pressuring the State Department and Congress to act on child abductions, the legislation specifies a series of actions to be taken in cases of international child abductions. The State Department will also issue a report annually listing countries where a parental abduction has taken place.

The possibility of international abduction may add an additional complication to child custody negotiations. While sometimes parents feel that they can work within the framework of an informal agreement, cases such as these demonstrate one reason that having a binding legal custody agreement may be important. With a child custody order from a judge in place, parents can turn to the courts if there are problems even if they do not involve extremes like international abduction. An attorney may be useful in negotiating this agreement.

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