While all cases of parental kidnapping are unfortunate, international cases can make it particularly difficult for a parent to remedy the situation. A New York man and his son, Liam McCarty, have made international headlines in recent years for the man’s efforts to regain custody of his son. The man and his wife divorced in 2007. A New York court granted him child custody, as the court found his ex-wife unfit to be a parent, and doctors had diagnosed her with severe personality disorders. In 2007, though, she fled to Italy with her son, and Liam has remained there, mired in the Italian justice system, since then.
An Italian judge reached the same decision that the New York judge did – that Liam’s mother was unfit to have custody of Liam – but never returned him to his father. Instead, the judge placed Liam in an Italian orphanage. Liam’s father has been able to visit and spend time with his son, but Liam remains in Italy. What has distressed Liam’s father and many other Americans is that international law covers this sort of situation, yet Italy has not yet acted accordingly.
The Hague Abduction Convention is an international treaty that 86 countries have signed, including the US and most of South America and Europe. The Convention is similar to uniform laws amongst US states in that countries have to respect lawfully enacted child custody orders of other countries. Under the Convention, Italy should have to return Liam immediately to his father in the US where there was a valid order that his mother disobeyed. Unfortunately, for now, Liam and his father can only spend time together on Italian soil.
For US parents, other legal tools are available for parents to combat international parental kidnapping. The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993 makes it a federal crime to take unlawfully take children overseas. Additionally, the State Department operates a handy tool – the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program – that lets parents register to receive notification if someone attempts to obtain a passport in the child’s name.
Have you been involved in an international parental kidnapping case? What advice do you have to share with other parents with these concerns?
John K. Grubb & Associates, P.C. – Houston divorce lawyers