Divorce is difficult for everyone, but some families face larger problems than the emotional upheaval common to most Americans. A spouse with dual citizenship in both American and a foreign country may additionally pose the potential for international child abduction.
Following a divorce between a couple with children, California law enacts a temporary restraining order upon both parents, forbidding either from taking his or her children from the state for a period of time without written consent from the other party or a court order.
On a domestic level, the effects of the provisions of the initial law seemed to create an ideal immobile status for children, particularly in the emotionally trying time that follows a divorce. However a recent rise in international parental abduction made it apparent that the law didn’t go far enough. The bill’s sad inception is due to one such story. The idea was conceived by California resident Randy Collins, whose son Keisuke was abducted to Japan following divorce; Mr. Collins has been without his son since he was taken in June 2008. Collins has worked tirelessly since to promote practices that will prevent further abductions of vulnerable American children.
Passed in 2012, the California Senate bill was sponsored by Senator Mimi Walters and expands that temporary restraining order to prohibit either party from applying for a new or updated passport for the child unless they’ve obtained either written consent from the parent or a court order. Additionally, it permits the District Attorney to freeze the California assets of the alleged abductor, and issue a protective custody order to facilitate the return of the abducted child. This bill was unanimously voted through the Senate and came into effect for the residents of the state of California on January 1st, 2013.
Parents going through divorces in which there is a threat of international child abduction should note that summer school vacation is a particularly high risk time for abduction.
The following are tips suggested by the US State Department’s Office of Child Issues to help concerned parents prevent international child abduction:
- Create a detailed custody order with provisions specifying the beginning and end of visits.
- Ask a neutral third party, such as the courts, to hold passports.
- Pay attention to sudden major changes in a former spouse’s life, such as quitting a job, selling a home, and closing a major bank account.
- If your child has dual citizenship, contact the embassy for that country and inquire about the passport requirements for minors.
- If you think your child may have been abducted, have the police take a detailed report to the National Crime Information Center. A warrant is not necessary.
Further resources can be found at the US Department of State’s website.