Cross Border Abductions

With the close proximity of the Mexican border to San Diego, and the commonness of bi-national citizenship, child abductions to Mexico have becoming an increasing concern. Many parents fear that their spouse or ex-spouse will take their child across the Mexican border and will then have no resolve within the U.S. Family Court system. Obtaining the return of a child who has been wrongfully kidnapped across the Mexican border is a difficult task and parents must be aware of what remedies are available and more importantly, what can be done to prevent such kidnapping.

The first step in securing the safety of your child or children from being abducted to Mexico is to engage in abduction prevention. Where there is a history of domestic violence or flight risks, parents should petition the Family Law Court’s for orders that would allow the child’s or children’s passport and birth certificates be held by the parent who is not a threat. Further, it may be appropriate to request orders that visitation be supervised and take place in San Diego County only; particularly where there is a history of domestic violence or a flight risk.

If prevention was not taken or was unsuccessful and your child or children have in fact been kidnapped to Mexico, there are important and immediate steps that should be taken to ensure that safe and quick return of your child. The first and most important step is to immediately contact the local police and the District Attorney’s office. The Child Abduction Unit of the San Diego District Attorney’s office may be able to coordinate the return of your child by contacting and working with Mexican police and officials. Typically, the return of your child requires recourse to the Hague Convention; however, the District Attorney’s office may be able to by-pass this step and ensure the immediate return of your child where: the child was placed with a third party who is not a parent or where the child does not have proper documents allowing them to be present in Mexico. Proper travel documents include a Mexican birth certificate, a Mexican passport or a tourist or immigrant visa. If your child or the person who took your child does not have these documents, they do not have a proper travel document to enter Mexico. A proper travel document to re-enter the U.S. is a U.S. passport (required effective 1/1/08) or a birth certificate and I.D. (acceptable prior to 1/1/08). If either of the two exceptions outlined above are present, the District Attorney’s office may be able to assist you; however, you must also know the approximate location of the children. It is important to give as much information known about the child’s location as possible, as this is the surest way to locate them quickly.

It may be necessary to seek recourse through the Hague Convention where the District Attorney’s office is unable to assist you under the exceptions noted above. If this is the situation, you will still immediately contact the District Attorney’s office and provide them with: certified copies of birth certificates, photographs of the children and the location of the children (if known). Again, it is important to be as specific as possible about the location of the children. At this point, it would also be wise to seek legal counsel to coordinate the immediate safe return of your children.

The best protection of your children form cross-border abduction is prevention. If you feel that your spouse or ex-spouse poses a threat of kidnapping your children, immediately contact an attorney for legal assistance in obtaining the proper orders. If your children have already been abducted, immediately contact the District Attorney’s office and seek legal counsel.

If you need further assistance, please contact Sabrina A. Stuart, Esq. at 619-296-5884 or by email at: sstuart@hrollp.com.

This post is also available in: Spanish