Friday, August 21, 2009

Post-Abduction Reunification and the Abducting Parent

Parenting In A Post-Child Abduction Environment.

By no means am I an expert on how to advise on a child's re-entry into their community post-parental abduction. Nor do I profess to possess all of the needed wisdom on how a parent should act once a reunification successfully occurs concerning ongoing ‘prevention' with respect to potential acts of future abduction. There are no easy solutions; however, there is one goal: to be able to allow your innocent child to, well, be a child.

Clearly, each international abduction case is remarkably unique regardless of the common elements that may be attributed to these types of cases and the individuals that commit these crimes.

Additionally, in situations where there existed no acts of abuse, why and how do you allow and facilitate an abducting parent who committed the horrendous criminal act of abduction against your child back into both of your lives? And how do you actually deal with a person who more than likely did everything possible to slander your name and your reputation in order to stage a defense against their criminal act of international child abduction? Further, if you agree to do so, then in what capacity?

Unquestionably, there is great risk involved.

On one hand your greatest responsibility as a parent is to ensure your child's safety, which includes preventing any threat of abduction from occurring again. On the other hand, what you fought for when you recovered your child was for your child's rights to know the love of both parents in an environment that empowers their sense of identity. And on top of all of this is the reality that you, a successful Chasing Parent, must deal with the very real possability that your former spouse still may be very bitter and resentful toward you; there does exist the possability that this person may attempt to cause you harm whenever the opportunity arises. In between the lines trying to determine your child’s best interests are the judges, mediators, and policymakers.

Did I mention that none of this is easy?

In writing this article, I thought perhaps parents may find some useful straight-talk that may benefit your child's short-term and long-term happiness and stability.

Now, first let me say that I am fully aware that not every situation will or should call or allow for both parents to be a part of a child's life. When there exists grave concerns of a re-abduction or any other type of danger, then it is critical to protect your child from that danger, and any notion of dual-parental re-entry should be avoided at all costs. In cases where there is great concern and mistrust, mediation can provide much needed intervention – ideally there should not be one single child that should have to endure a parental abduction.
If it is realistically safe for you and your child to allow a post-abducting parent who is desirous and capable of re-entering your lives to do so, and you wish to support your child having both parents in their life, then your decision to travel down the path of careful reconciliation in the name of your child -may be a very wise one. It is here, in a structured re-entry, that hope exists. The trauma your child experienced during their abduction can eventually fade, with professional intervention and healing. These, children can have a normal life filled with magic and wonderment may be obtained. Surely, this is what you desire: a magical harmonious life for your child. Again, it is not going to be easy, and there are many situations where one parent's re-entry will cause more damage than good. Perhaps these discussions can begin to take place with a professional mediator, who has experience and knowledge in the area.

Be forewarned: do not act blindly and do not forget the past events; make sure that if you allow re-entry to occur, that every step is made to remove any form of re-abduction or abuse. All jurisdictional legalities should be first addressed and you should careful craft any Access Orders before the children leave the jurisdiction. Once these steps are taken, the custodial parent can begin to encourage the child to have access with the abducting parent.

Dialogue and visits with the abducting parent can assist the child and fully allow for the healing process to continue. This can empower the child which in the long term will help their growth and development. After all, we do not want our children to take on the role of a victim but the role of a survivor .This will strengthen their spirit and empower them, teaching them the future does not have to be like the past.

I imagine you might be wondering why I think I have some authority to write this article. Well, the answer is simple: I am a Chasing Parent who successfully recovered, reunited, and re-entered my community with my son, and along the way, have created an environment that has made it possible for him to receive and understand the love of both of his parents. Openly, it is not easy, and I do live with daily concern that my former spouse may attempt to hurt me if ever given the opportunity.

It is a risk that I have presently decided to take for my son's sake.

You may take what you want from what I share, but I thought certain individuals might benefit from the lessons I have learned personally and also educated on by other Chasing Parents who have previously addressed the issue of re-entry.

Before I go any further, I want to reinforce my position that I strongly support the full and complete enforcement of all criminal laws created to prevent parental child abduction in all forms and arenas.
When one parent chooses to deny a child their rights to the other parent by breaking the laws that govern their child's welfare, purposefully removing or detaining their child from the country of origin in a foreign country without consent of the other parent, this cruel criminal act of kidnapping places the child, along with all other parties, in a position of grave and severe risk. I also believe that our court system and the lack of knowledge and education by judges in the area of international custodial jurisdiction is a significant reason why there are so many international child abduction cases. Our legal system does not work the way it has the potential to. What I mean by ‘our legal system' are the courts, generally, worldwide, and how they handle both incoming and outgoing international child abduction cases. Training and research in this area can bring about immediate and much needed change. An un-informed and uneducated judicial system plays a heavy role in the cruelty our children face, and there are many other problems that must be addressed, however prevention must first start with creating a highly trained judicial system supported with heavy research and people with hands on experience. One highly regarded suggestion with respect to overhauling the legal system is for nations to form a body of judges and mediators solely trained to serve in a "Parental Abduction Tribunal Unit". This tribunal would consist of judges, mediators and helping professionals aimed to address and handle parental abduction cases. This Unit would be responsible for hearing international child abduction cases. This idea has been borne from the United Kingdom; the only country that has highly informed and trained judges overseeing international child abduction legal proceedings and has been very affective.

Back to re-entry post child abduction ... here are some suggestions I have implemented that appear to be working for my child. None of them have been easy to do, but due to these efforts, my child lives in a worry-free, safe environment filled with the love of both of his parents.

1. Lose the ego.
Let's be frank about certain realities. First, you probably do not like or trust the other parent; and obviously for good reason - you were forced into the deadliest of storms by the act of utter abuse - the abduction of your child. You may still view your child's other parent as your enemy, and you may still have great fear of that person's capability, however, your child probably doesn't view that parent as their enemy, and if they do, then you better stop whatever you're doing and help change this perspective because it will cripple any sense of security and identity she/he may have. What you need to know is your child needs you both as parents to stop being enemies. In order to do that, you both need to take a giant step forward and lose your egos. This doesn't mean you need to be that person's friend, but you need to compartmentalize certain parts of your painful history with that person in the name of the best interest of your child.

2. Forgiveness.
After you decide that you're going to do your best to lose your ego and compartmentalize your anger, the next critical step in being able to facilitate your child's re-entry is probably the most difficult of all things you will be required to do: the act of forgiveness. Okay, now trust me; I know how hard this issue is. That is why you need to first lose your ego. Once you've tossed it, remember these words: Your child needs you to act in forgiveness. If you fail to do so, then you are creating an environment filled with hostility and fear, which will cause potentially irreparable and severe psychological damage to your innocent child. So if you want your child to grow up a mess, then hold onto the anger and the hatred. Alternatively, you can set an example for your child that will be one of the greatest gifts you can ever share: teach the powerful act of forgiveness.

3. Create an open environment of expression.
Regardless of whether you want to believe it or not, once a child is wrongfully removed or detained by one parent from the other, the child lives in a perpetual state of fear and worry. This precludes them from being able to share openly their feelings or emotions. In every conceivable way, your child previously lived in a psychological prison where true freedom of expression caused great anxiety. Whilst held in this state and with each passing day, a part of their spirit died. You do not want to create another spiritual prison! Critically, you must create a nurturing and free environment that fosters open communication filled with empowering support and understanding of your child's desires, concerns and views. To put it bluntly, you need to allow your child to feel safe and unencumbered in being able to talk about anything they desire without concern of a backlash or retribution in the event you disagree with their views. Similarly, your child may desire to bring up a subject (such as the other parent) that you may not want to speak about. Remember, the more open and supportive you are of your child's views and perspectives, the more trust you will build. Trusting is everything.

4. Trust.
Probably the most difficult of all the things an abducted child must learn to live with is the task of determining how to live with a lack of trust created by their abduction experience. Trust needs to be rebuilt for your child, regardless of your perspective on what occurred and who is responsible. Remember, from your child's perspective, the system that they counted on; the love and support of both mother and father, failed. Right now is probably a good time to remind you of the first golden-rule: get rid of your ego. The only perspective that really matters is the view of your child, and clearly, your child's trust was breached. So, a few suggestions for you to consider to restore trust include doing what you say you're going to do; never speak poorly about your child's other parent; never discard or hinder your child's right to the other parent; reinforce the idea your child was not responsible for the trauma that has occurred; make sure you actively reintroduce you child to the community that is part of their identity; and finally, tell the truth.

5. Family.
Remember your child's family includes the both of you. In being significant parts of your child's family, both parents may provide critical components of your child's identity (I am aware that this is not always the case, and there are individuals out there who should never have been parents in the first place). What you need to guard against is creating a platform where your child's identity is associated with anger and hatred. Isn't it better, in the very least, to have cooperative distance? If that is the case, then perhaps the most helpful idea I can provide is this: don't go out of your way to hurt or be unfair to the other parent when it comes to their interaction with your child. If you do, what you're really doing in the end is punishing your child.

6. A safe place to disagree.
There are going to be times when the two of you will not agree on certain issues. What you need to do when this occurs is to remember not to talk poorly about the other parent in front of your child, and, make sure that there is a mechanism (perhaps mediation) in place that can assist each of you through difficult issues.

7. Follow the law.
With everything that you do, make sure that you follow the laws of custody you are governed by.

8. Be demonstrative.
Hugs and kisses and the words "I love you" are just as important to your child as you being an active part of their day-to-day life. So, take an interest in what your child is doing, participate in those interests as much as you can and remember, when you do, a hug and a kiss followed by the words such as "I love you" or "I am so proud of you" will mean a great deal to your child long after they have grown into adulthood.

9. When in doubt, act on the side of caution.
As a Chasing Parent, you and your child would not be in the position you are in unless a well orchestrated conspiracy to abduct your child was not carried out by the other parent. Do not forget how clever that plan was and how you were perhaps caught off guard. One simple rule to live by: if something doesn't seem right, it probably is not. If that is the case, act with great caution and always ask the advice of a good lawyer familiar with international child abduction jurisdiction law on how to act. If you can't afford a lawyer any longer, there are plenty of smart individuals that work in the trenches of international child abduction that can give you some insight based upon their own experiences ... they are called ‘Chasing Parents'.

10. Let your child be a child.
Remember your child has the right to be a child.

11. Be ready for an attack.
The reality of an abducting parent's situation once they are ordered home is that these individuals are typically angry, bitter, and hostile. In addition, there has been much said about the fact that in the vast majority of cases, abducting parents do have serious mental problems. So, you must remember that there is a chance that revenge and the desire to cause the Chasing Parent left behind in the wake of an international child abduction - which is cited by most leading authorities as the primary reason why a parent abducts their child - may now exist in a post-reunification world even more than during the time your child was stolen.

I know - none of this is easy!

Now that you've read a few of my suggestions, you might think I must have fallen on my head a few times. Perhaps, you're thinking that what I am suggesting is to have you forget whatever happened in the past or it does not matter. Well, I'm not saying those things at all. What I am suggesting is that you need to look at things from your child's perspective, needs, and best interests (both short-term and long-term). In order to do so, anger and resentment fueled by ego, pain and fear must be compartmentalized, not discarded. In its place must be an enforceable set of expectations and boundaries that both parents are accountable to uphold in the name of your child. And you must be mindful that revenge and anger probably still exists.
There are a few simple things that some parents have found to be effective tools in helping children heal from a parental abduction. Allow your child time to play, laugh and sing. You might want to join them too. This too, is very therapeutic.

In reality, international parental child abduction remains very easy to accomplish due to failures by judges to realize that their court orders mean very little if anything at all once a child is removed to another country, and, the incomprehensible failure by police-keeping officers to uphold the laws of the courts with respect to a child's rights of access, visitation, and custody of one of their parents.

I also want to be very specific and state that this act is a grave crime against children. Unfortunately, many abducting parents do not fear criminal prosecution while planning and implementing their criminal conspiracy (I know of no act of parental child abduction whereas the abducting parent did not breach numerous criminal codes or rules of court). Clearly, a collective effort by highly educated judges willing and able to enforce the laws they are duty-bound to oversee will significantly reduce the number of planned or actual abductions.

Ultimately, your child needs a loving, safe environment that allows them to be a child. What your child needs is to trust again while embracing love without fear of retribution. Remember, nobody said any of this is going to be easy, however, if you're in a position to think about the issues I have brought up, there is a good chance the difficult part of the journey you, your child, and the abducting parent have traveled on may be over . . . but that depends on how you both as parents interact with one another.

The level or degree of dysfunction, the threat of re-abduction, awareness, legal prevention established to prevent another abduction from occurring, self reflection on the choice and consequences to allow or not to allow the abducting parent re-entry, are all issues that must be considered. This, re-entry, will impact the child and parent and are all variables that must be discussed, especially when dealing with mental illness. However, issues will surface for a child when the abducting parent is capable of having a loving bond and this, is taken away forever from a child. When children are not allowed or forbidden to have any access or visits after re-entry with the abducting parent this can also hinder the child’s development. In the same manner, when abducted children are forced to return to re- visit an abducting parent via a Court Order, before a healing period, this too can have long term consequences on the children as it prolongs and continues the abuse. The justice system is not fair however, parents can choose to practice fairness as this is in the best interests of their children.

One last piece of advice: keep your eyes open at all times, whilst creating the best possible open, loving and supportive environment of your child. Remember, there was a time when you may have thought you would never see your child again, so make sure you celebrate each day.

Signs of a Potential International Parental Child Abduction

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 with 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.

1. Be aware of the possibility of any abduction. Although there are no foolproof warning signs for abduction risk, some indicators should not be ignored. Do not stick your head in the sand and pretend that your child is not at risk.

2. The vast majority of international child abductions occur by a parent who is determined to cause hardship and harm to the other parent. The instrument that they use in order to cause this harm is the child or children of the marriage. A significant number of leading therapist from around the world have stated in numerous reports that revenge is the primary and leading reason why one parent will try to end the other parent’s relationship with their own child. Therefore, if you are involved with a person who has jealous or revengeful tendencies, you must be aware that these characteristics are common in the vast majority of would-be parental child abductors.

3. If the issues raised in Section 2 are true in your situation and your spouse or former spouse has in the past used the child of your marriage or relationship to cause you harm, pain, and suffering, or, has tried to control and manipulate your actions, then your concern should be magnified ten-fold. If the same individual has family members in another country or has lived in another country and has expressed a desire or threat to move there with your child, your concern should be magnified one-hundred fold.

4. If there is evidence of previous abductions, disappearances, or threats to abduct the child by your spouse or ex-spouse, these indicators demonstrate that any new abduction threat is real and in more likelihood already planned.

5. If your spouse or ex-spouse has citizenship in another country and strong emotional or cultural ties to their country of origin.

6. Unexplainable removal of cash deposits and diminished assets, or unexplainable increases in credit card or bank debt.

7. Concealment of new credit cards or bank debt.

8. Concealed, hidden, and abrupt communication with individuals or family members living in a foreign country.

9. Concealed, hidden, and abrupt communication with a lawyer.

10. Frequent previous trips with child to a foreign country without other parent.

11. Family and friends living in a foreign country.

12. No strong ties to a child's home state.

13. Strong foreign support network.

14. No financial reason to stay.

15. Possible use of the child as a pawn in order to gain access to non-joint assets.

16. Engaged in planning activities such as quitting job; selling home; terminating lease; closing bank accounts or liquidating assets; hiding or destroying documents; or securing a passport, a birth certificate, or school medical records.

17. A history of marital instability, lack of cooperation with the other parent, domestic violence, or child abuse.

18. An announcement of an unexpected trip to another country with the child.

19. The taking of easily transportable high-valued items such as jewelry upon departing to another country.

20. Adamant unwillingness to leave the child behind with you while spouse travels to a foreign country.

21. Shipping of personal items to a foreign country.

22. A past tendency of your spouse or ex-spouse to relocate and live abroad.

23. In certain jurisdictions – whereas both parents have a joint-right to custody – it is conceivable that a parent possessing a right of custodial authority over the child (this can be joint or sole custody) can legally remove the child of the marriage/partnership to another country for an undetermined period of time (claiming a holiday or short-term trip) without needing permission or actually informing the other parent if a pre-existing travel agreement is not in place already with the court. Essentially, a parent exercising their right of custody over their child can legally remove the child of the marriage/partnership without permission from the other parent if a court order is not issued previously. Not surprisingly, many international parental child abductions occur when one parent takes the child of the marriage to another country for an alleged short ‘family visit’ – however, in reality that person has no intention of ever returning with the child to the place of habitual residency. What typically happens next in these scenarios is that the abducting parent, unknown to the left behind parent, files for a divorce in the country they have abducted to. The divorce motion and affidavit filed makes claim to all sorts of cruel and dangerous behavior against the spouse (thus the reason why they are able to file under an ex parte [without notice] motion). Once the divorce law suit is filed, the abducting parent usually will go underground with the assistance of family and/or friends who usually assisted in the planning of this act. It is critical to note that deception is a critical element in these typical scenarios: the left behind parent is left to believe that their partner and child are on a short vacation (typically to visit family of the partner) at the time of their departure. A few days or weeks later, reality sets in with either a phone call or a letter saying that the partner and child/children are not returning, and that a divorce action has been filed. So, even if you think you are happily married, it is greatly advised to have a legally binding and court registered travel agreement in place prior to either parent exercising a right of custody is granted permission to leave the country with your child.

24. Trust your instincts: if something feels wrong, it probably is. And remember that most international parental child abductions are carefully planned and typically involve the help of others.

25. Discovery of either a U.S. passport or a foreign passport issued by another country in your child's name that you are not aware of.

For more information on international parental child abduction, please visit If you are a parent who beleives that your child is in immediate danger, contact your local police immediately.

Chasing The Cyclone author Peter Thomas Interview with the Levin Institute

The world-renown Levin Institute based in New York City is a highly acclaimed global research center committed to studying key aspects of globalization interviewed Peter Thomas, author of the upcoming novel Chasing The Cyclone.

Interview with Peter Thomas, author of Chasing The Cyclone.

1. Are you familiar with David Goldman’s case? If so, what is your take on his situation, and could you compare what he is going through to your own experiences?

I am familiar with the Sean and David Goldman case, who, like many thousands of other less publicly familiar kidnapped children and their 'Chasing Parents', are tragic victims of International Parental Kidnapping. In fact, the Goldman supporters’ online community has published an extensive number of essays I have written regarding child abduction, which can be viewed at

One of the greatest difficulties all 'Chasing Parents' face, no matter who we are, David Goldman included, is the fact that once a child is removed from a country of legal jurisdiction, or illegally retained in another nation or here in the United States, a 'Chasing Parent' seeking to rescue and reunite with their child faces the most challenging, and sometimes, most deadly fight they will ever know. Unfortunately, all 'Chasing Parents' face many similar storms. So, in this sense it is easy to relate to and feel the pain of David's nightmare. I also can relate to him as a parent willing to do everything possible to protect his child. And though I do not know this first-hand, I am sure that David can relate to the pain and fear of other 'Chasing Parents'.

During the many conversations I have had with 'Chasing Parents' from around the world, the vast majority expressed their greatest concern and disappointment with the lack of research and education by local judges and courts of jurisdiction, who initially ruled on what eventually turned out to be a well-organized and well-orchestrated plan to abduct a child. According to one of the most knowledgeable and highly respected individuals in the field of international child abduction, Teresa Lauderdale (Co-Founder of Prevent International Parental Child Abduction [PIPCA]), the number one priority that must be focused on in order to reduce the cruel and abusive criminal act of international child abduction is to create a highly skilled, knowledgeable, and trained pool of judges familiar with international child abduction and international jurisdictional law.

Unfortunately for victimized children and their 'Chasing Parents', the international legal system is filled with too many tactical loopholes capable of creating a near impossible logistical environment for most 'Chasing Parents' trying to fight the fight required in order to bring their child home once the child has been criminally abducted.

For example, in the United States, there is no government financial aid allocated toward investigative or legal costs associated with the State and Federal crime of cross-border parental child abduction and kidnapping. I can't even begin to tell you how many 'Chasing Parents' I know who simply do not have the massive amount of money (often and commonly running in the area of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more) required to mount a legal campaign needed, typically in both the 'originating country' and the 'receiving country' , to bring a child home.

So, right from the start, if you are a United States citizen without financial resources, you're more than likely not going to bring your child home. In fact, this applies no matter what country you are a citizen of. This - the lack of financial assistance for 'Chasing Parents' - must change. A perfect example of having the financial means to fight the fight is to look at David Goldman's case. He was able to raise the money needed in order to move forward with his fight for Sean. In my case, I was fortunate enough to have my own resources. However, most parents do not have the network such as David, including a large financial settlement that was previously attached to his case, or, the internal resources that I was fortunate to have. So David and I are similar in that sense. I pray that his hard-fought efforts will have similar results that I achieved with my own child. Sean Goldman deserves his loving father. But still, tragically ... look at Larry Synclair (the 'Synclair-Cannon Act'), who has no idea where his child is other than someplace in Russia, or the amazing Maureen Dabbagh, who fought for so long to find her daughter, only for her child's criminal abduction to end with a final determination ... there are so many cases, so many unspoken tragedies. I could go on. It has to stop. It has too.

Ironically, if a child is kidnapped overseas by a non-parent, then the full force and resources of an entire nation (and it really doesn't matter which country I am talking about), would be directed at recovering that child. So it doesn't make any sense that the United States does not provide adequate and readily available resources that will assist in the recovery of one of its innocent and defenseless children citizens.
Additionally, a great challenge all 'Chasing Parents' face while litigating in the Hague Courts is the fact that it is easy and inexpensive for an abducting parent to hold up a return by extending the length of time between proceedings; calling for a barrage of studies and investigations by making false accusations and statements (' Article 13(b) of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Abduction' is known as the 'Abductor's Defense Mantra') and finally, by appealing any and all court rulings. All of this has one purpose: to break down the 'Chasing Parents' spirit whilst depleting their resources so the 'Chasing Parent' can no longer continue with the legal proceedings.

Strategically, the longer a child is wrongfully retained overseas, the better the odds are that the child will remain there, after too much time has elapsed, uprooting a child after they have adjusted to their new environment is not in the child's best interest. This point was one of the strategies Sean Goldman's abductors used in their ongoing defense to keep this young boy from his loving father. Fortunately, it is my opinion that Sean will eventually come home. How long that takes is anyone's guess, but I can't imagine Brazil allowing for this child to remain there much longer. Hopefully Sean is released - make no mistake, this child, similar to other abducted children, is being used as a pawn in the abductor's appeal process (and is clearly being abused with an assortment of acts best defined as Parental Alienation tactics). It is baffling how abductors do not realize they have imprisoned innocent children when they refuse to return a wrongfully detained child.
Surely, the delay tactics used in all international child abduction cases causes great concern and frustration for any 'Chasing Parent'. I know that during the time my son was missing, I became a 'ghost': you're not alive, and you're not dead - you live in perpetual purgatory. It is a term other 'Chasing Parents' I have spoken to have also referred to themselves as and perhaps this - becoming a ghost - may especially apply to 'Chasing Parents' such as myself, who did not know at times where my child was and others, who do not know to this day.

2. David has been using The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction, which is primarily concerned with negotiating the return of the child, in his efforts to bring his son home. However, you argue that a parent taking a child is a criminal act, tantamount to (if not worse than) non-parental child abduction. In your opinion then, does The Hague Convention act as any sort of deterrent to parental child abduction, or do enough to bring the taken child home? Or, is legislation like the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1933 more appropriate for these cases?

In answering this question, I first must share my belief that it is in the best interest of all children to know and receive the love of both parents, so long as both parents post-abduction are capable of providing a stable, non-threatening, secure, and trustworthy environment for the child who has experienced abduction.

I believe international child abduction is a criminal act.

Whether taking a child is a criminal act or not is matter for each sovereign country to decide upon; I believe for the United States it is and ought to be legislated as a criminal act. I believe it ought to be a criminal act no matter where a child is abducted from. From France, from India, from Japan or from here.

The Hague Convention is good law: the issue is how it is applied by every country involved. Unfortunately, it is applied haphazardly both at home and abroad and with very wide variation within each signatory country, including the US. The practical result is that despite the Hague Convention, an international child abduction is still probably going to succeed. In that case, where is the deterrent? More than this, the Hague Convention is not well-known publically and not even within the legal profession (including judges); so if you do not know about it, how can it serve as a deterrent?

Non-parental child abductions, or 'Stranger Abductions', are fraught with risk to the child, make no mistake about that. In these situations a child is highly likely to be killed rather than located, never mind recovered. These are truly evil crimes.Therein lies the irony with parental abductions: for the most part they are treated simply as a civil matter and that means the burden of both cost and resources falls upon the Chasing Parent. Imagine trying to find a child in the town next to yours, and then imagine doing the same in a country where the language is different, the customs are different and you are not a citizen? Imagine trying to find your child somewhere on the globe and you don not even know which country they have been taken to! All on your dime. More than this, parental abductions outnumber stranger abductions by a huge factor. Parental abduction is commonplace whereas, stranger abduction, very fortunately is in fact quite rare though we quite rightly, hear a lot about them in the news.If a case is treated as a crime, the full weight of national law enforcement resources are made available, including investigation to locate the child and prosecution of the criminal concerned.

If a case is treated as a civil or Hague Convention case, the full burden is placed upon the lone parent and I refer to my answer to your first question; I was lucky to have private financial resources, David Goldman has benefitted from a financial settlement and public support, but for most Chasing Parents they are utterly alone in their pursuit of their children and that is simply unjust and irresponsible for them and most of all, for the abducted children and in fact, many abductions are classified as 'resolved' simply because of no activity on the case, not because of no desire on the part of the Chasing Parent but because of lack of funds.

I mentioned earlier the problem of finding your child or children taken who knows where. Just think for a moment; just because your spouse is Brazilian does not mean they took the children to Brazil. It is an assumption which is often proved wrong. Consider Josef Cannon' s daughter. Shelby. Her mother is Irish but she abducted the child to a third country, the UK. Or Robert Skelton's child, Marissa Joy Kvistad. Her mother is an American but she abducted the child from the US initially to Spain and ended up in Switzerland after a further abduction, well, now we do not know which country the child is in. Where do we start looking? Pick a country, any country?

Making the abduction a criminal act is a major deterrent because most Chasing Parents' first reaction when the abduction occurs is something like, "There must be a law against this!" It is a shock to find that in reality, there is no t much of one but if Chasing Parents believe there is a law in situ, then it is reasonable to suppose Abducting Parents do too, unless they have an attorney who knows the system and who will also know the weakness of the applicability of the Hague Convention and how to thwart it.

The International Parental Kidnapping Act (IPKA) enacted in 1993 as you say, established a criminal sanction for international child abductions, but there are three issues with IPKA:(a) It is not used very much and there have only been a handful of prosecutions using it;(b) It only deals with abductions from the United States. What about abductions to the United States, as after all, if America is serious about putting an end to international child abduction why are we not looking at the child abductions to our own jurisdiction which are going on;(c) IPKA works after the horse has bolted which means that we have to rely on a foreign country to work with us in the US to apprehend and return the abductor and the child, but some countries do not recognize international child abduction as a crime and therefore will not work with the warrants and orders under it. In other words, IPKA has no international teeth and so what we really need is a criminal version of the Hague Convention to back up the civil version David and other Chasing Parents are relying on. If the civil proceedings fail within the time limits established, they should be able to invoke the criminal version with the threat of jail time for the abductor.

Another point I would like to make is this. The Hague Convention has a reporting system established; it varies between countries and may not be accurate, but nevertheless, there is a reporting system of some sort used to collect data. A major issue is that many international child abductions occur but the Chasing Parent is simply unaware of the existence of the Hague Convention, and even after they approach law enforcement the abduction never even gets reported as an international child abduction, so the Central Authorities do not count it. This is likely to be a very large number, much greater than the reported statistics we have. We have to question just how accurate the Hague Convention statistics are no matter how they are calculated, and whether we can rely upon them when we are looking at international child abductions as a whole because I think we are missing a lot of abductions in the official numbers.

There is one other thing that I would like to mention, and I think it is very important with respect to 'prevention'. Since there are presently no laws I am aware of that prevents one parent from taking a child outside of the country without the other parent's permission in situations where no separation or divorce proceedings have been filed, I think it is critically important laws are implemented that would require both parents to consent if one of the other parents is desirous to take the child of the relationship outside of the country. This is very important, because, as I mentioned earlier, most Chasing Parents get blindsided when their child does not come home, and they eventually find out that the child is in another country, and not coming home.

There is no question that our global society needs for the Hague Convention to work, and work efficiently. In this sense, I want to make it very clear that I do support The Hague.

3. Thankfully, you were fortunate, and determined, enough to be reunited with your son. Did you employ the same means as David, or were you forced to find alternatives? What worked, what did not, and why?

I was beyond determined: I was willing to do anything necessary in order to protect my son. I share much of this in 'Chasing The Cyclone' ( So is David Goldman. And so too are unheralded scores of other 'Chasing Parents'.

The Hague Courts are the first avenue of recourse for most 'Chasing Parents' once an abducting parent has violated the jurisdictional law of a child's habitual residency. Of course, the Hague Convention only applies when the child was abducted to a country that is a signatory to the international treaty. With great dismay, there still exist many nations, mostly in Asia and the Middle East, that have not signed the treaty and violate the spirit of the international community's position with respect to international child abduction. And as I previously mentioned, there are too many signatory nations such as Brazil, Mexico, and Germany that do not uphold the treaty that they signed. These non-complying, spirit-denying nations have become safe-harbors for parental child abductors.

In my situation, I turned to the Hague Courts via Canada's Central Authority after determination on whether the United States Government or the Canadian Government should act as the petitioning nation on my behalf. David Goldman filed his action via the United States Central Authority.

Essentially, in my child's situation, the Hague Court did rule my son was wrongfully abducted and ordered back to North America; however, immediately after the return order was issued, there was another incident - a devastating disappearance despite my best attempt not to lose sight of him. So at that point, and with extreme fear for his physical safety and a lack of concern for his disappearance by law enforcement, I was required to act with great and unbridled urgency to find my son.

In the end what worked for me was my own transformation as a knowledgeable, unyielding force of hope and determination that I would keep a promise I may to my son: that I will never leave or abandon him. And that - 'Chasing The Cyclone' and racing into the most brutal of storms, and knowing that I would get pulverized in every aspect of my life while doing so, including the potential to lose everything material and spiritual - it all did not matter - what did was protecting my child. This promise I made to my son - I am sure David Goldman made to his son, Sean.

There was nothing else . . . you know, there is a dangerous misconception held by the public, and it needs to change: that when one parent abducts a child and illegally removes the child across international borders, that this act is a child custody event. Nothing in the world could be more wrong.

Abducted children, their Chasing Parents, and Recovery Agents are murdered more often than is commonly spoken of. Sometimes, children are moved into child slavery . . . and worse . . . much worse.

Stepping back for a moment, and looking at the similarities of my situation and that of the Goldman family, yes, we both took the right step in seeking intervention via the Hague Courts. Now, if only the spirit of the treaty was enforced, then situations of intolerable child abuse directed at children-victims would be dramatically reduced. It is an issue all 'Chasing Parents' are calling for.

4. You have spoken about what a travesty it is that the United States government does not provide any assistance to Chasing Parents (parents trying to recover their abducted children), whether financial or otherwise, when other Hague-signatory member states do. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have both tried to help David Goldman bring his son home. Is this a step in the right direction for our government, and what more needs to be done?

The fact that the Goldman case has reached some of the most important eyes and ears in the world says many great things about David and the team of organizers who are rightfully supporting David and Sean's case. Great attention has been brought to the Goldman's plight: now what needs to be done is for our wonderful political leaders to take notice of the other Chasing Parents and their abducted children.

Most of all, there needs to be significant change in a system that is broken - the fact is, too many abducted children are not returned, the short-term and long-term hardships that abducted children face are severe and debilitating; the lives of Chasing Parents are destroyed; and due to the courts' failure to hold abducting parents accountable, what we see is a wrong signal sent that essentially says that society is not serious about international child abduction.

So, I have to ask this question: if your child was abducted to an unknown country and you risk never seeing that child again while also knowing that your child is living the dangerous life of a fugitive due to their attachment and reliance on their fugitive, abducting parent, what will you do, and how will you feel?

Fortunately, there are some significant steps that can be taken that can immediately reduce the number of abductions that occur, as well as increase the number of reunifications. Any actions regarding reform and change in policy must include, but surely are not limited to the following:

"• Provision of financial assistance to Chasing Parents whether American parents going overseas or foreign parents looking for children abducted to the US so legal, investigation and the simple logistics of attending court hearings can be met;
• There needs to be dedicated research in all areas of international parental child abduction;
• Mandatory efforts focusing on judicial training and education are critical components of furthering abduction prevention;
• Mandatory enforcement at the judicial level of the rules of court and the rules of law, whereas, judges establish a zero tolerance level for acts of perjury or contempt of court;
• The development of a relatively small judicial unit within various jurisdictions that are highly trained and experienced and who will only hear cases regarding international child abduction similar to the pool of judges in the British Supreme Court in London;
• Financial assistance for Chasing Parents, whether they are American parents looking overseas or foreign parents looking for their children here in the US, with respect to all legal activities involved with finding and recovering an abducted child;
• Criminal prosecution of abducting parents;
• Criminal prosecution of lawyers who have aided and assisted in a planned international child abduction;
• A member states failure to uphold its responsibilities should be met with substantial economic sanctions, and removal of any favored nation status they may receive.

There is one other issue I think I would like to address here: the issue of whether to publicize your child's case or not. The use of the media to raise awareness in certain cases in order to recover your child can be very helpful in certain parental child abductions cases. But under no circumstance is the media and publicity the best route for everyone. If anything, there are situations where any use of media could in fact jeopardize the life of your child, you, and any team members who are out there helping you try to recover your child. The reality that a 'Chasing Parent' must face is this: the bad and cruel act that was initiated against your child by their other parent typically is followed by evil. Life as a fugitive on the run is very dangerous. A parent moving frequently from one location to another, using alias for both the child and themselves, needing to move in 'cash circles', having to make quick and unannounced decisions, and essentially leaving any support network that the child knows runs into a very dangerous situation: meeting other fugitives and predators while they are on the run. Evil acts are followed-up by evil individuals trying to capitalize on another's misfortune.

5. Unfortunately, you have a unique perspective and incredibly in depth knowledge of the trials that Chasing Parents go through. What impact do you hope your book, Chasing The Cyclone, will have on other people's understanding of International Parental Abduction?

There are several main goals with 'Chasing the Cyclone'.

Of course, my first priority in writing the book was to play my part in raising awareness to the fact that international parental child abduction is a dangerous epidemic that causes unprecedented damage and destruction for tens of thousands of individuals each year, especially children. Only through an educated and informed society will we ever see much needed change occur that can protect children. And that's my goal: to help protect other children.

You know, there is never a day that goes by that I do not recognize just how fortunate I am to have my little guy safely home. Yet, you see, once you become a 'Chasing Parent', you forever belong to a club you did not sign-up for. But how do you walk away from the fight when you know that someone else who loves their child as much as you do was just ambushed and about to fight the fight of their lives in order to protect the life of their innocent child? And how could I walk away knowing that others can learn from my success and determination?I couldn't . . . I will not walk away. I have chosen to be unbowed in my conviction to make a difference.

6. What is the most important change you would like to see, with regards to government policy and public opinion?

It is critical that society understands that when one parent steals a child from another parent and illegally removes that child across international borders that a very dangerous and severe crime that completely puts the child's safety has taken place.We need to concentrate on how we can prevent international child abductions from occurring in the future. This means research and judicial training but it also means the presence and state of mind to act, and act effectively. In the United States, we need to implement policy that will aid Chasing Parents, foreign and domestic, in all matters relevant to the rescue and reunification with their child. The Department of State's Office of Children's Issues (OCI) must utilize all of its resources and make them readily available for all parents, across the board without prejudice or hesitation.

Furthermore, we must uphold the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction, and play our part to have other nations participate in the international treaty and uphold the spirit of member nations. To this end, we should accede to the Hague Convention provision which provides financial provision for legal costs associated with the Hague Convention proceedings in the US. It is a source of embarrassment that an American Chasing Parent can get free legal assistance and provision in many European countries and elsewhere, completely free or at vastly subsidized cost, but when a foreign parent comes to the US they must foot the entire legal bill themselves. The US refused to agree to this provision for legal fees to be covered for Chasing Parents and foreign countries view this as a message that we will not help when a child is abducted to America. We have to get past this one-sided focus on children abducted out of the US and on the equal numbers abducted to America if we are to be truly viewed as serious about stopping international child abduction.

Finally, we must turn to skilled cross border mediators to become quickly involved in cases of international child abduction. Cases are resolved through the Hague. Cases are resolved through Competent cross Border mediation, and cases are resolved through criminal warrants. Competent case triage is essential in case management and quick resolution.

7. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Going back ... relieving the nightmares, the storms, and the fear that something evil was in my son's way, and I couldn't do a thing about it. Yet in the end, I am very pleased with how I share this story. I am pleased I decided to write it.

8. A central theme in your writing seems to be that the Chasing Parent needs to maintain hope and a sense of urgency in their efforts, which is why you choose not to use the term 'Left Behind Parent'. Why is this so important?

Philosophically, the term 'Left Behind Parent' implies a powerless parent, a - victim left behind in the wake of their child's abduction. The term 'Chasing Parent' emphasizes the sense of urgency parents have and need in attempting to recover and reunite with their child.

Now, I know that some parents go into shock and do little when parental child abduction occurs. They become overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness, utter disbelief, and even a feeling that maybe they are not worthy of being a parent, that maybe the child is better off with the other parent - and become incapacitated. But others- they chase into the storms with a sense of determination that no matter how long or what it make take, they will find and bring their child home.This notion that you will succeed in your efforts is based upon your unyielding hope and belief that you will bring your child home.

9. What has been the most positive response you have received to your book and your work?

There have been many 'Chasing Parents' who have contacted me and said that the work that I am doing is giving them a sense of hope that, perhaps, they have lost over time due to the mountainous hurdles they have each faced in trying to reunite with their child or children. I have also been told by more than a handful of readers who have received advanced review copies of 'Chasing The Cyclone' that my craftsmanship as a storyteller places the reader into a position of not wanting to put the book down. And that was important to me, because it means that once a reader picks up the book, I have your undivided attention.

The other humbling aspect of what I am seeing is that a very large, mostly unseen global community is beginning to rise up. And that is really amazing because once the global advocates for children truly unite on the front of international child abduction; there will be world-wide change.

Call me an optimist, but I can feel and see the tides are changing.

10. What is next for you?

I am very pleased to announce that as a community of child activists, our efforts to raise global awareness and offer viable solutions to the rapid and brutal devastation, caused by international child abduction, has led to the production of a global documentary titled: 'Chasing Parents: Racing Into The Storms of International Parental Child Abduction' which is presently in various phases of production. Director JJ Rogers leads the production team of filmmakers and child advocates intent on raising awareness of the growing epidemic that is international child abduction. In addition, key leaders and global activists in the area of international child abduction are actively involved in the film project. The documentary is anticipating to be showcased at a host of major film festivals in 2010.

In addition, we are moving steadfastly toward production of a feature film adaptation of 'Chasing The Cyclone'. I am sure I will have more on that to share in the near future, but I must say, the process has been enjoyable. In essence, what we're doing is creating a series of different media projects that will continue to keep the issue of child abduction in the public's eye.

And of course in between the various film activities and my efforts to assist other Chasing Parents and their children is the challenge of scheduling a national and international book tour.

But besides all of that, my real number one priority is to raise my son in an open, loving, and safe environment. And that is exactly what I am doing.

11. Is there anything else you would like to add that?

It is imperative for citizens everywhere rise up and support the acts of those who are trying to bring about change in policy and law in order to protect children. After all, no person thinks that this could happen to them until it is to late. Raising awareness is the primary reason why I wrote my book. Along the way, I have met some very fine individuals who really care about children, and I have also met some individuals who are so deeply troubled and severely handicapped due perhaps in part by the hardship of their child's abduction.

For anyone interested in learning more about this subject, or interested in finding out what I am doing, there is a great deal of information and resources that can be found at:

One last thing, and personally it is the most important message of all: Son, I love you so much and am so proud of you. I know you have developed a great strength to live through a loving heart. May you always remain the strong, insightful, caring, and loving person you are. And know that you bring such great joy to my life.

For more information about The Levin Institute and to read this interview on their website please visit

For more information on international parental child abduction and Chasing The Cyclone by Peter Thomas, please visit