The horror of parental abduction!
Listening to Kris’s story was hearing a parent’s worst nightmare. I was Roy Green’s other guest, and legal expert, on Roy’s excellent talk program airing nationally on the Corus Radio Network each weekend.
As Vancouver parent Kris explained, despite a Washington state court order granting him custody of his young son Max, his Japanese born ex-spouse had removed Max from the US and taken him to Japan. His Court Order was not worth the paper it was written on, since Japanese family courts do not recognize or enforce foreign family court orders.
While Japan is a recent signatory to the Hague Convention, which requires countries to enforce foreign family court orders, Japan has yet to pass legislation to implement the necessary procedures. So for now, a law without any teeth to help parents like Kris.
Although Kris is exploring other options, including the intervention of Interpol, Kris’s story illustrates the challenges which can occur if a parent removes children to a foreign jurisdiction, even those countries which observe the Hague Convention.
In my experience it is far more effective to attempt to prevent the children from leaving the jurisdiction than it is to have them returned after they’ve been removed.
So here are some tips if you suspect that your ex may be inclined to take the children away, whether to another province or country, and not return.
Firstly, if you are negotiating the terms of a court order or Separation Agreement, make sure you include specific provisions which require your ex to obtain your prior written consent to travel outside the province or country with the children.
Secondly, if there is no court order or agreement in place, and you have evidence that your ex has plans to remove the children permanently, you need to immediately attend and obtain a court order that your ex not leave the jurisdiction. Once you have an order it should be relayed to responsible authorities at every applicable border crossing, and/or highway.
Hopefully, if you, and parents everywhere, take such steps, and authorities respond as they should, we can prevent re-living this nightmare on any street!