International Parental Child Abduction

Abductions FROM the U.S.

How the U.S. State Department Can Help if Your Child is Abducted Overseas

Contact the Office of Children’s Issues

You can speak with a country officer in the Office of Children’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State.  Our officers can provide information and direct you to resources that may help return your abducted child to the United States.

Call during 8:15 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
EST: 1-888-407-4747 
from the U.S. & Canada
1-202-501-4444 from abroad

If you can, collect the documents and information listed here to make the most of your call.  However, it is not necessary to have all of these documents at the time of the call.  You can also email us at askci@state.gov.

What the State Department Can Do:

  • We can provide you with information about various resources that may assist you in your efforts to return your child to the United States;
  • If your child is abducted to a country that is a Hague Abduction Convention partner country, we can accept your Hague application and monitor developments concerning your child’s case through the Foreign Central Authority;
  • We can provide a list of attorneys  in the country where your child is located;
  • We can answer questions from local and federal law enforcement about the Department’s role in international child abduction cases;
  • We can facilitate your communication with other U.S. government agencies and non-governmental organizations that may be able to assist you;

Abductions in Progress 

If your child has just been abducted and is still in the United States, or is enroute to another country, our officers may be able to:

  • Work with law enforcement officials to prevent your child from departing the United States;
  • Work with our overseas embassies and foreign officials to stop your child from entering a foreign country.
  • Facilitate your communication with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), missingkids.com, which plays a lead role in responding to abductions within the United States.

Learn more in our FAQs

What the State Department Cannot Do:

  • Take custody of a child;
  • Help someone break any laws in the United States or a foreign country;
  • Break any laws in the United States or a foreign country;
  • Pay legal fees, court costs, or any other fees associated with litigation;
  • Provide legal advice or recommendations about how to proceed;
  • Represent you in court;
  • Provide a place to stay or assistance to anyone who tries to take self-help measures to recover the child

Who Can Help Locate Your Child

If you are not sure where your child was taken, locating your child is the top priority.  Often, the taking parent goes to great lengths to keep this location hidden, and may even change the name of your child.  In addition to the assistance that your local law enforcement authorities provide, the following resources are available to help you find your child.

Office of Children’s Issues

Once you contact the Office of Children’s Issues in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs to report a child’s abduction or wrongful retention, the Office of Children’s Issues can access consular databases and other systems that may provide additional resources in locating children outside the United States.  The Office of Children’s Issues can also connect with both domestic and foreign partners to locate missing children and can serve as a liaison with INTERPOL and other law enforcement authorities noted below.

State and Local Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officials may be able to assist you on the local level with locating missing children.  Please contact your local city, county, or state agency for further information regarding your options and their abilities in such cases.

U.S. Embassies and Consulates

If you know the country where your child may be located, a consular officer from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in that country can work with government officials in that country to try to locate your child.  The following information will aid in efforts to confirm or rule out your child’s location outside of the United States:

  • Your child’s or children’s full name (and any aliases, other names by which they may also be known);
  • Your child’s date and place of birth;
  • The full name (and any possible aliases) of the taking parent;
  • The names, addresses, telephone numbers of friends, relatives, place of employment, the taking parent’s legal representative or business connections;
  • Your child’s last known location.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Field offices across the country serve as the primary points of contact for those requesting FBI assistance in locating missing children.  To request FBI assistance or learn more about their services, please contact the Crimes Against Children Coordinator at your local FBI Office.

On the web:
FBI’s Crimes Against Children

FBI’s Launches Child ID App

International Police

The International Police Organization (INTERPOL) can assist in the location of your child by producing a Yellow Notice that will notify INTERPOL when your child passes through an international border that is connected to the INTERPOL system.  Additionally, INTERPOL Red Notices can be issued on the taking parent based on state or federal warrants.  Ask your local police to contact INTERPOL for more information.

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)

NCMEC offers parents a wide array of resources and assistance depending on where you live and what your situation is.  Please contact 1-800-The-Lost for more details.

Filing a Hague Application

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) is the primary civil law mechanism for parents seeking the return of their children from other treaty partner countries.  Countries that are party to the Convention have agreed that a child who was habitually resident in one Convention country, and who has been removed to or retained in another Convention country in violation of the left-behind parent’s custodial rights, shall be returned.  Once the child has been returned, any custody dispute can then be resolved in the courts of that jurisdiction. The Convention does not address who should have custody of the child; it addresses where the custody case should be heard.

The circumstances of every abduction case are different and each requires a tailored response.  Please call and discuss your child’s case with a country officer as soon as possible to determine options available to you in seeking the return of your child.  It is also always best to discuss your child’s case with an attorney before taking any actions.

Discuss your options with your country officer

Deciding whether to file a Hague application is an important decision and must be considered based on each case’s specific circumstances.  Discuss with the country officer assigned to your child’s case what is needed to file a Hague application and what other options are available.  Please note that the country officer cannot provide you with legal advice.  You are encouraged to speak to an attorney about your Hague application and other issues before taking any action on your child’s case.

NOTE: Submit a Hague application as soon as possible after an abduction or wrongful retention has taken place.  If more than one year passes before you file a Hague application, it may be more difficult to have your child returned under The Hague Abduction Convention.  You do not need to have a custody order to file a Hague application and you should not wait for custody order before filing.  Any delays in filing could affect the outcome of the case.

Contact Country Officer

Find out if the Hague Abduction Convention is an option for your child’s case by contacting a country officer.

If your child is under 16 years old you may be able to file because Dominican Republic (DR) is a Hague Convention partner with the United States and your child is under 16 years old. To determine whether the U.S. Central Authority will accept your application, please contact your country officer to discuss your case.

Please refer to the following link with additional information about international abductions under the Hague Convention; https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en.html

 

Abductions TO the U.S.

How the State Department Can Help

Our country officers in the Office of Children’s Issues are able to assist if your child has been abducted into the U.S. from another country.  The resources available to you depend on whether your child was abducted from a Hague Convention partner country or a non-Hague country.  Our office handles both types of cases, though our services are more limited in non-Hague cases.

The Hague Convention may apply in your case if:

  1. Your child was taken from a country that is a partner with the U.S. under the Convention.
  2. Your child was under 16 at the time of the removal or retention.

The Office of Children’s Issues helps with Hague cases by:

  • Accepting applications for return or access from Foreign Central Authorities;
  • Assisting parents in locating their child/ren within the U.S.;
  • Attempting to achieve  a voluntary return or voluntary access if appropriate;
  • Assisting parents with finding attorneys, including attorneys willing to work on a pro bono or reduced-fee basis for qualified parents;
  • Referring families to mediation services upon request;  and
  • Assisting with the safe return of children to their country of habitual residence.

If the Hague Convention does not apply in your case, our office helps by:

  • Responding to requests for assistance from foreign embassies in the United States or directly from a parent or legal guardian;
  • Providing general information and resources about international parental child abduction;
  • Working with INTERPOLto help locate your child within the United States if your child is listed as missing with INTERPOL;
  • Providing mediation information upon request;
  • Providing full fee attorneys lists upon request
  • Providing information on this website for finding an attorney in the United States.

Other resources which may be helpful to you are:

Embassy in the United StatesOften the embassy of your country in the U.S. can provide a list of attorneys or attempt to visit a child in the U.S.

Law Enforcement:  INTERPOL is the world’s largest international police organization, with 187 member countries.  If your child was taken from an INTERPOL member country, consult with law enforcement authorities in your country to ask for their assistance in filing a missing child report and seeking an INTERPOL Missing Child (Yellow) Notice.  On the basis of this Yellow notice an entry for the child can be made into NCIC (a U.S. law enforcement database).  Only then does law enforcement in the U.S. have the authority to assist in locating the child.  Law enforcement authorities in your country can also tell you whether or not the taking parent has violated your country’s laws.

National Center for Missing and Exploied Children (NCMEC):  NCMEC is a non-profit non-government organization in the U.S. that may be able to offer you additional free services, such as creating posters for your child.  Visit NCMEC’s website or call 1-800-THE-LOST (5678).  Our country officers can give you more information and assist with any requests.

While our office can assist you with many aspects of your case, we are unable to provide the following type of assistance: 

  • Our office cannot physically pick up your child in the U.S.
  • Our office cannot provide you with any form of legal advice, including representing you in court.

If you have any questions about these, please do not hesitate to contact your country officer.

Please note that our office is concerned about the welfare and safe return of your child.  We strongly discourage you from attempting to re-abduct your child.  These measures could result in your arrest, endanger your child and ultimately delay your child’s return.

Filing a Hague Application

The Hague Abduction Convention is the primary civil law mechanism for parents seeking the return of the children from other treaty partner countries. Countries that are party to the Convention have agreed that a child who was living in one Convention country, and who has been removed to or retained in another Convention country in violation of the left-behind parent’s custodial rights, shall be promptly returned. Once the child has been returned, the custody dispute can then be resolved, if necessary, in the courts of that jurisdiction. The Convention does not address who should have custody of the child; it addresses where the custody case should be heard.

The circumstances of every abduction case are different and each requires a tailored response.  Please contact the Central Authority in the country from which your child was wrongfully removed or retained as soon as possible to determine options available to you in seeking the return of your child.  It is also always best to discuss your case with an attorney before taking any actions.

Please refer to the following link with additional information about international abductions under the Hague Convention; https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en.html