Via photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Via photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Every 40 seconds in the United States, a child becomes missing or is abducted. Scary, huh? However, contrary to popular belief, many child abductions are not carried out by strangers. The reality is most children who are kidnapped are taken by their own parents.

Parental Abductions: Why Do They Happen

According to the latest stats, nearly 204,000 were victims of family abduction in 2014. This is done for a wide variety of reasons, but usually occurs when a custodial order is not viewed as being “fair” by one of the parents.

When this parent is allowed their court-appointed time with their child, they choose to leave the area and not return their child to their custodial parent. Leaving the area doesn’t necessarily mean they leave the state. It might just mean that they don’t return to their home or return the child to their home.

Via Supertrooper/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Via Supertrooper/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

International Parental Abductions: The Trend

International parental child abduction rates have dropped by 12.23% over the last 4 years—however, that’s still not high enough in our books.

Child victims of international parental kidnapping are often taken from a familiar environment and suddenly isolated from their community, family, and friends.  They may miss months or even years of schooling.

The child may be moved to multiple locations in order to stay hidden or out of reach of the parent remaining in the United States.  In some cases, the child´s name, birth date, and physical appearance are altered or concealed to hide identity.

Via Supertrooper/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Pictured: German Flag (Via Supertrooper/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

One Mother’s Nightmare

At Lauth Investigations, we’ve handled quite a number of parental abduction cases for our clients over the years. One of our more high-profile cases involved the kidnapping of Jasmin, 9, and Felix, 6, of Germany.

Several years ago, their father abducted them to the United States, prompting the mother, Susanne, to take every necessary action to return them back to Germany—but it was no easy task.

She reached out to lawyers in Germany and the USA, the FBI, the American embassy as well as organizations that specialize in parental abduction cases. However, none of these agencies appeared to move fast enough or provide her with the answers she so desperately needed in a timely manner.

That’s when she reached out to us. To make a long story short, it took us just two days to learn that Susanne’s children were living with their father in Charlotte, N.C. Local authorities were contacted and they eventually took the children, placing them temporarily in foster care. As soon as she learned the news, their mother left Germany to see her children after nearly two month of them being taken from her.

Via Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Via Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Lesson Learned 

Eventually, a judge soon ruled in Susanne’s favor. She was able to return with her children back to Germany. Unfortunately, like many parents involved in similar cases, Susanne made the mistake of solely relying on the authorities for help. In fact, he cost her six weeks.

“Police, youth welfare office, embassy, Federal Office of Justice are all necessary, but don’t help searching,” she told a German newspaper. “You, yourself, have to take the first steps, take care and take advantage of the experience of others.”

The Challenges Of International Parental Kidnapping

Resolving child custody issues can be quite challenging and often times emotional. When that battle over custody transcends across the globe and jurisdictions of different countries, there is always a heightened level of complexity involved—especially when there may be communication barriers.

In the United States, federal law prohibits a parent from removing a child from this country or retaining a child in another country with intent to obstruct another parent´s custodial rights.

However, it’s important to understand: The FBI has no investigative jurisdiction outside the U.S., except on the high seas and other locations specifically granted by Congress.

Via David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Via David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hague Convention On The Civil Aspects Of International Child Abduction

This is the primary, go-to civil law mechanism for parents seeking the return of their children from other treaty partner countries.  Countries that are party to the Convention have agreed that a child who was habitually resident in one Convention country, and who has been removed to or retained in another Convention country in violation of the left-behind parent’s custodial rights, shall be returned.

Once the child has been returned, any custody dispute can then be resolved in the courts of that jurisdiction. The Convention, however, does not address who should have custody of the child; it addresses where the custody case should be heard.

To learn more, click here.

The Bottom Line

The circumstances of every abduction case are different and each requires a tailored response.  It’s so important that you call and discuss your child’s case with a country officer as soon as possible to determine options available to you in seeking the return of your child. However, don’t completely rely on law enforcement authorities to locate your child. Take matters into your own hands and seek the help of an agency who specializes in international parental kidnapping cases. They can guide you in the right direction.

Need Help?

Lauth Investigations and Thomas Lauth are experts in helping families locate missing loved ones.

While each missing persons case is different and results will vary, Lauth has been helping families for more than 20 years and boasts nearly an 85% success rate.

If you or someone you know need assistance, call them today at 1.800.889.FIND or 317.951.1100.