Many of us in Greenwich remember the story of a father whose son was taken to Brazil by his ex-wife where she eventually died in 2008. Instead of returning his son to him, the boy’s grandparents filed for custody in Brazilian courts, making this story of parental abduction even more heart-breaking. Fortunatley, after intense pressure by the United States, including the threat of blocking a Brazil-friendly trade bill, the boy was returned to his father.
Sadly, these stories are not unique. The U.S. Department of State estimates that there were 7,000 American children who were taken by a parent overseas. This is not a simple relocation, which could be granted by Connecticut family courts, but an abduction, as many of the parents shared custody with their exes. Ignoring those court orders and fleeing to their home countries, the abducting parents thought they would be able to have sole custody of their children.
Many times, unfortunately, they do get sole custody and their American children will never return to the U.S. For the parent that is left behind, it can be a depressing fight for justice.
Congress, however, is taking action. It is considering a bill named after the father and son pair discussed above. If it is passed, it would give the State Department greater power to advocate on behalf of left-behind parents. It would also force the president to take action when countries refuse to return abducted children. Whether the State Department actually wants the increase in power, however, remains doubtful.
As it is, relocation can be difficult on parents (and children), but parental abduction is a whole different issue.