International Child Abduction

What to do in a case of abduction

International parental child abductions are increasing at an alarming rate. The Department of State has seen an increase of 40% in abductions since 2008. Time is of the essence in beginning the process of return as strict timelines are imposed when an abduction has occurred. Additionally, a child begins to exhibit signs of Stockholm Syndrome wherein they identify with their abductor within only three weeks of being taken which could adversely impact the case for return should the child have been unduly influenced to choose to remain with his or her abductor.

If no custody order is in place and both the left behind and the taking countries are parties to the Hague Convention, the following guideline steps should be taken:

  1. Contact Family Law International;
  2. Contact law enforcement; however, they may be reluctant to get involved;
  3. Get a detailed custody determination;
  4. Enter details onto NCIC database;
  5. Contact NCMEC;
  6. File a Hague Petition;
  7. Make sure you have a support group of family and friends;
  8. Create a website for your child; and
  9. Keep detailed notes of whom you have contacted to about your case.

If you have a foreign custody order or the left behind country or taking country is not a signatory to the Hague convention, then different action must be taken. Criminal, tort and diplomatic remedies are also available.


If at any time and for any reason you suspect that your child may be the victim of an abduction, there are preventative measures which should be put into place immediately. Act now — prevention is always better than cure.


Both the Department of State and NCMEC have a list of attorneys versed in Hague and Non – Hague abduction cases. The International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers is another good resource for qualified lawyers. Be sure to ascertain whether your lawyer is conversant with the Hague Convention and other applicable treaties. Remember, an abduction matter is not a type of custody dispute and different standards of proof apply.

The Hague Convention

The convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction.

Read the "Hague Convention" document.

Mediating International Family Law

Child custody disputes are among one of the most difficult areas of Family Law, involving established principals of law fraught with emotions that often cloud clear decision making. Litigation usually provides only a short term solution, and the judicial system sometimes proves a poor decision maker for what are private and ongoing and changing family circumstances. Who better to make decisions for a child then their parents who can ... Read the entire "Mediating Hague Cases" article. Written by International Abduction Attorney Caroline Langley.