Friday, August 28, 2009

The Examiner Interviews Chasing The Cyclone author Peter Thomas.

Peter Thomas sits down with Barbara Thompson of the Examiner to discuss international parental child abduction, parenting in a post-abduction enviornment, and his upcoming book Chasing The Cyclone. For more information about Peter Thomas' Chasing The Cyclone, please visit

A few years ago, Peter Thomas was blissfully unaware of the storm known as parental abduction. Since he shared joint custody with his ex-wife, he didn't have as much time with his son as he would have liked, but every minute they spent together was an adventure. The father and son enjoyed a bond that would be the envy of many custodial parents.

When Peter's ex-wife suddenly abducted their son and took him overseas, Peter's life turned upside down. He literally went to the ends of the earth to protect his son and their right to a loving relationship with each other.
Peter's book Chasing the Cyclone: A Father's Unending Love for his Son will be available in bookstores in September so I recently spoke with him about the book and the challenges that chasing parents face. The interview is long but Peter makes some very important points that all parents need to consider.

Examiner: I'm sure you know that the story you tell in Chasing the Cyclone is pretty unbelievable to the uninitiated. Is the book an accurate portrayal of your story?

Peter Thomas: Most international child abductions are pretty unbelievable to begin with. I think this all starts with the fact that many judges fail to enforce the laws that they are governed to enforce, fail to recognize that their court rulings do not have much meaning in a foreign land, that their court orders typically are not enforceable overseas, and most importantly, fail to recognize the signs or warnings that an international child abduction is imminent.

In Chasing The Cyclone, I essentially followed what I was familiar with. Whatever author liberties I may have taken in writing this novel, I did in order to keep the tempo of the story moving and to further demonstrate the very real truth that when a parent kidnaps a child, what they are doing is completely putting the child's life at risk. The fact is abducted children, their Chasing Parents, and Recovery Agents have been murdered. And in China, children are abducted at such an alarming rate...there are no words for it.

But most of all, I think what you're actually asking is whether the parental bond between my son and I was portrayed accurately, and did the judicial system in Canada actually fail to recognize the risk my son was being placed into. So in this sense, everything was portrayed accurately.

Examiner: If you could go back to 3-4 years ago, before all this started, what, if anything, would you do differently? What advice would you give to a parent who suspects that their child is at risk for abduction? What about the parents who believe "This can't happen to us"?

Peter Thomas: The one thing that stands out quickly is that I would have tried much harder to enforce the co-parenting time my son and I were awarded by the courts. Unfortunately, my decision [not to take my ex-wife to court to enforce the parenting time] was based on not wanting to cause turmoil in my son's life. Knowing that my son could possibly be the target of any action I would take against his mother, I refrained from doing so while always hoping that his mother would eventually start acting responsibly and follow the court's orders. This was a mistake.

What I did not know I was doing at the time was giving my son's mother essentially a green light to further disobey the laws we were both governed by. So if I would have done anything differently, and I URGE other mothers and fathers who are denied access to their child: under no circumstance should you allow for this to occur. In the United States and in Canada, the denial of a child to either of their parents as ordered by a court of law is, in fact, a criminal act of abduction. Seek help from the courts, and do not relent when access is denied.

Tragically, no person expects or could ever be prepared for their child to be internationally abducted. There are hundreds of thousands of parents around the world who can testify to this. Nobody expects it to happen to them. And then the next thing you know, you're looking into the most dangerous storms you could ever imagine.

So parents have to be mindful about the possibility of an international abduction, particularly when their is a separation or divorce, and one of the partners has strong ties or a desire to relocate to another country.
There are no fool-proof warning signs that your spouse or ex-spouse is thinking of taking your child across international borders, with or without your permission and knowledge. However, there are in fact many
signs and signals that can provide you with insight that your spouse or former spouse is intending to abduct your child. Most of all, trust your instincts.

If you have reason to believe that your spouse is in the process or is contemplating the abduction of your child, you must not wait: contact your local police and a lawyer familiar with family law and custody matters. You may need to file an ex parte (an Emergency without notice filing) motion to the court of jurisdiction where the child lives, seeking court intervention prior to when the abduction or wrongful retention occurs. Under most laws, the judge will have to hear your application so long as you present enough strong and credible evidence that your spouse or ex-spouse is planning to take your child across state or international borders. I have put together a list of preventive tips for parents concerned about international parental abduction.

Examiner: If you could speak to a parent who is considering taking their child and going underground, either internationally or domestically, what would you say to that parent?

Peter Thomas: A child's heart is filled with innocence. It's open to give and to receive love, it is unmarked by the scars that etch themselves onto our personae, our fabric, if you will, as we journey through life. Their innocence is sacred.

Fundamental to the rights of ‘innocence' that all children are entitled to is the right of a child to freely know the love and goodness of both parents. As parents, it is our privilege to love our children, however, it is a child's right to know both of their parents' love. Sadly, we see all too often during times of divorce and separation the selfish and destructive act of a parent trying to remove and destroy a child's right to an open and loving relationship with the other parent by denying the child physical access to the other parent or by talking negatively about the other parent to that child. In these instances, the child is used as a pawn in a power struggle, and as a tool to punish or cause hurt to the other parent. Innocence is destroyed.
When either parent uses a child to cause hurt and pain toward the other parent, what they are doing is destroying the child's fabric. All loving parents should refrain from using a child in any matters that are between the two former partners.

Most importantly, if a parent is thinking about taking their child and disappearing either domestically or internationally, I have one very strong piece of advice: you greatly risk damaging your child's overall short and long-term mental health while also placing your child in grave physical danger. I strongly advise any parent thinking of this to dismiss any notion you may have that as long as your child is with you, your child is safe because you love your child. The fact is, your child has a bond to the other parent. Moreso, you do in fact place your child's physical safety in great jeopardy when you go on the run and disappear.

I also want to address something very important to me: I have two female family members who have been victims of serious and intolerable abuse, and so I can deeply empathize with any person who believes they need to flee from the other partner in order to prevent ongoing abuse to either themselves or their child from occurring. I really do empathize with all victims of abuse. Their situation is a perpetual living hell, and I can understand why a victim of abuse would want to run to the other side of the world in order to protect their and their child's life and safety. However, it is so important that any relocation is done legally. This means that an abused person who thankfully has realized that they will no longer tolerate abuse must take all legal action necessary within the child's legal jurisdiction in order to prevent the abuser from being a threat. Then, and if that person is still desirous of leaving the jurisdiction where the child was raised, they should follow the rules of law and seek a court's oder allowing them and their child to leave.

Finally, under no circumstance should any person illegally and criminally remove their child either domestically or internationally.

Examiner: Your decision to allow your son's mother to remain active in his life is admirable. How have you managed to put your own anger, fear, etc. behind you in order to facilitate a relationship between them? Given your diminished confidence in the courts, what measures would you recommend that a parent take in order to ensure a previously abducted child's safety?

Peter Thomas: None of it is easy. I still live with the daily concern that both my son and I are at risk. However, I had a decision to make, and it dealt with my child's rights. What I believed all along, and what I fought for, was that my son had the right to know the love of both of his parents. That includes me. And that includes his mom. So, in the end, it was his right to know the love of both me and his mother that I had to protect. Did I mention that none of this is easy? It is not easy, but we're both learning how to co-exist for our son's sake. We both realize the importance of this.

I think what we are both trying to focus on at this time in our life is raising our child to the best of our abilities. That is the most important issue. And I want to make this clear; I believe that my former spouse deeply loves our child the way that I do. And our child is greatly benefiting from receiving unencumbered love from the both of us. The whole process is a learning process; there is no blueprint available, but I think we're both trying our best for our son's sake.

Fortunately, I have been very blessed in my life and have been touched by two amazing individuals that have taught me about forgiveness. The first, and I do not want to dismiss this, is the lessons I have learned about forgiveness due to my Christian faith and the teaching of Jesus. The second individual who has guided me is my adopted grandfather, Rabbi Morton Kohn. He was an Auschwitz survivor who watched the majority of his family die in the camps. I never met a person who embraced love and forgiveness more than my grandfather. And so, I decided a while ago, that if he could learn how to forgive, so too would I.

And you know what, forgiving someone really is amazing. So it would be right to say that I have forgiven. But I have not forgotten.

On that note, the most important responsibility I have as a parent to my son is to ensure his safety. I have a responsibility to him to never allow him to go through what he did. The way I have done this is to have a keen awareness of all aspects of his life. I address this in further detail in my article Parenting in a Post-Child Abduction Environment.

Examiner: What would you like to say to the general public who believes that stories like yours (and David Goldman's, and Michael McCarty's, and so many others!) are anomalies. The people who believe that parental abduction is not really kidnapping and is no more than a custody dispute?

Peter Thomas: For anyone who thinks that the international parental abduction of a child is a minor matter closer to a child custody issue than the criminal act, the federal law titled The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA) of 1993 makes it very clear that international parental child abduction is a serious and dangerous crime. Additionally, the federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP)-Parental Kidnapping law was created to allow for federal law enforcement to aid local and state law enforcement when state criminal charges are filed against an abducting parent (each state has criminal laws regarding parental child abduction).

The facts are that once a child is abducted, the amount of abuse directed toward the child is incredible. Acts of child abuse in the form of waves of parental alienation typically directed at the child by the kidnapping parent do deteriorate the child's identity and sense of self. The failure of the child from receiving their inalinable right of love from the Chasing Parent left behind may cause severe short and long-term physchological damage. And most importantly, there exists a grave danger that the child just might not survive the abduction experience.

So for anyone who thinks that parental kidnapping is a custody case, I ask you to imagine what your perception would be if your child was kidnapped outside of the country, and the only thing you know is that your child is gone, and you have no idea where your child is. Is it still a custody case? Absolutely not.

There is one other thing I want to mention here: if your child is abducted, you better have a whole lot of money because you're going to need it. The fact is that presently, there is limited financial support for Chasing Parents who are searching for their criminally internationally abducted child. The U.S. laws must change immediately. The act of international child abduction is both a state and national criminal act in the United States. Yet, only if it is a stranger-abduction will the full force and weight of the U.S. government be used to search for and attempt to bring the child home. The laws and the action related to the law are contradictory. Yet, I do not know of one government official, one child physchologist, or one expert in the area of child abduction who believes that parental child abduction is not as severe as a stranger abduction.

Examiner: You list some organizations on your website including Team HOPE and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. What other resources would you recommend for chasing parents or would you ask the general public to support?

Peter Thomas: I think what is most important right now is that the general public reach out to the legislative leaders and petition them to support Congressman Chris Smith's International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009, and any related legislation that will eventually come out of the Senate. Much praise needs to be heaped on Congressman Smith. He is a true advocate of children and Chasing Parents.

In addition, when the U.S. Congress agreed to become a signatory of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, it did so with the mandate that there would be no financial assistance provided to Chasing Parents. However, and contradicting this, when the Office of Children's Issues was created within the U.S. Department of State, Congress essentially mandated this office to use all of its available resources to aid in the recovery of criminally abducted children who have been illegally detained abroad.

Most Chasing Parents lose everything trying to recover their child. Their lives are ambushed. They are forced to race into the unknown storms they could never have anticiapted or desired to race into. There is no roadmap. There is not financial aid. The courts have limited understanding or completed research on this growing criminal crime against children.

It all must change.

Examiner: How is the documentary coming along?

Peter Thomas: There have been many supportive Chasing Parents who are anxious to participate in the documentary. It is a complete learning process since this issue is very delicate. Unquestionably, we need to get this right. So, prudence is critical. However, we're actively researching, writing, reviewing tapes, and preparing interviews - while all along thinking carefully through what format will best raise awareness to the general public about the severity of international child abduction, and what specifically could be done both short and long-term that would reduce the number of abductions from occuring, with the eventual hope that every abducted child is brought home..

Chasing The Cyclone by Peter Thomas Official Website. Click Here.
Chasing The Cyclone Book Review by The Examiner. Click Here.
Chasing The Cyclone by Peter Thomas blog in Espanol. Click Here.
Chasing The Cyclone by Peter Thomas blog in Italiano. Click Here.
Chasing The Cyclone by Peter Thomas blog in Frances. Click Here.