Interstate And International Child Abduction Unit

Created by our founder, Gregory LaMonaca in conjunction with Chief Legal Counsel, Lawrence Welsh decades ago, this unit concentrates in a highly specialized area of the law that most family law firms do not handle. Through their combined efforts, over the years, they have successfully retrieved children back from many states and foreign countries. Whether it be a child taken improperly across state lines or into other countries, we fight to protect the individual’s rights.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), between 200,000 and 260,000 children each year are “taken” by a parent or other family member. Non-family abductions, in fact, make up only 2% of the missing children cases reported to NCMEC. Unsurprisingly, such “takings” often occur in the midst of a contentious divorce, custody, or other family law battle. At LaMonaca Law, our Interstate and International Child Abduction Unit is comprised of lawyers with extensive experience successfully handling both interstate and international child abduction cases. Such cases require cooperating with state, federal, and foreign authorities. By way of brief tutorial, please see the following, as was previously posted on our website.

Family Abduction and the Law
Parental kidnapping is illegal in every state, and it is often treated as a felony-level offense that can result in a prison sentence upon conviction. Child stealing is different from kidnapping, in that the victim in kidnapping cases is considered the child who was abducted, while the victim in child stealing is the parent whose custody rights were violated. Also, unlike kidnapping charges, the prosecution in a child stealing case does not have to prove use of force or that the victim was “moved” any distance.

These cases are treated very seriously and many of the AMBER alerts issued stem from family abductions. Even where the child may not face an imminent threat of physical harm, law enforcement will treat these types of abductions as high priorities, and will work to return the child to his or her parent.

In many family abduction cases, the abducting parent will try to take the child to another state. In these cases, federal authorities may become involved, and the consequences for the abducting parent can be significantly more severe. In some instances, a parent may take a child to another state in order to benefit from less stringent divorce or child custody laws.

International Family Abduction
International child abduction is a growing problem, and occurs when a parent or relative leaves the United States with a child, in violation of a custody or visitation order. In many cases, the premise is that the child is being taken on vacation to a foreign country, but then the child is never returned. It is estimated that two-thirds of all instances of international child abduction involve mothers who were the victims of domestic violence. Cases of international child abduction do not occur as frequently as cases of domestic family abduction, however, the international cases are often more difficult to resolve, because of legal roadblocks presented by different international jurisdictions. Even when there is a treaty agreement between nations authorizing the return of the child, local courts may be unwilling to return the child, if that action would result in separating the child from the child’s caregiver, or if the abducting parent would face criminal prosecution in another county.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty intended to recover and return children who were the targets of international child abduction. In recent years, the United States, European authorities, and non-governmental organizations have had success in using cross-border mediation to resolve international child abduction cases. This has proven to be a safe and effective way to resolve these types of situations. Nonetheless, there are cases in which parents have engaged in the dangerous business of hiring commandos, or other “black-ops” sorts of private individuals, to rescue and return children from foreign countries.

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