International Child Abduction: What You Need To Know in Michigan

Mother and daughter walking down dirt road

A parent who takes a child away from the other parent, against court orders, is considered to be a kidnapper.

In the previous article we talked about interstate child abduction, and what a Michigan parent should know about this subject. In this next segment we are going to go a little further afield, and discuss international child abduction.

The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act, which was passed in Michigan on January 12, 2015, addresses the issue of international child abduction. As we mentioned previously, interstate abduction is considered more likely during contentious divorces where one party has strong ties to out-of-state family. In the same way, international abduction may be considered possible if one party involved in a high conflict divorce has strong ties to another country.

Let’s say a husband and wife here in Michigan are engaged in a highly combative divorce. Let’s also assume that the court has ordered joint custody to the parents. They are currently living apart and cannot exchange five words without a fight. However, this isn’t all that uncommon. What is less common, is the fact that the wife in this imaginary scenario is actually from Brazil.

So, during the father’s court ordered parenting time with his two children, one of the kids mentions that mommy was showing them pictures of her homeland, and asking if they would like to visit there soon, maybe stay there. Would they like to meet their grandparents, and see where she grew up? Suddenly they’re nervous. They don’t want to get into trouble. Mommy said not to tell daddy and it slipped out by accident…..

This alarms the father. He knows nothing about a pending trip to Brazil. Three days later, during the hand-off, he asks her about it. She is evasive. Doesn’t want to talk about it. She keeps changing the subject. Now he’s really worried.

Soon a mutual friend mentions to the father something the mother posted on Facebook about going back to Brazil as soon as the divorce is final. Wife said that she was done with living here in Michigan and she wanted to start over in the land she loved best. The couple are no longer Facebook friends, so the father never saw the post. But the time for worrying is over, now it’s time to act!

The father contacts his family law attorney, who files a petition requesting that the family court determine whether or not there is a credible risk of abduction. The court begins an investigation and discovers some worrying facts. The wife has emptied out her savings account, booked three tickets to Brazil, and told her landlord that she will not be renewing her lease next month.

At this point, based on the evidence, the court could decide that there is indeed a high risk of abduction. The court can take steps to counter that. While the prevention measures would differ for each situation, based on what the court felt was most appropriate, here are some examples of what could happen. The court could:

  • Change the mother’s custody arrangement to allow for only supervised visitation
  • Place restrictions on the children’s passports
  • Require that the mother “post bond” as a financial deterrent to abduction.
  • Place travel restrictions on the mother
  • Require that the mother pursue getting a Brazilian custody order that honors what the court in Michigan ruled.

The positive reality here is that the Michigan courts are now far better equipped to handle possible international abduction scenarios, and to intervene before they occur. Which, for all the Michigan parents out there who are concerned about the risk of losing their children to a vengeful spouse, is very good news indeed. Fixing a problem before it occurs is far easier than dealing with it afterward.

We hope this information has been helpful to you. However, if you still have concerns or questions about child abduction laws in Michigan, please come in and talk to our experienced family law attorneys. We can help you work through any concerns you may have about your specific custody arrangement. In the event of a potential international child abduction, we can help you work towards keeping your children safe and your family intact. Call us today at (248) 479-6200. We are here in Farmington Hills to help you.

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