Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Preventing Child Abduction from Israel by a Parent

Usually we like to post happy articles and positive information. The following post was prepared for us by Tzvi Szajnbrum, Attorney at Law. Knowledge is power and there are times this information needs to be known too. We hope and pray you, our readers wont have a need for such information.

For a couple with children under the age of 18, a nightmare scenario can occur when one of the parents decides to take the law into their own hands and to kidnap their children overseas. This is called Abduction.

The Hague Convention:
The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 is a multilateral treaty intended to trace and secure the prompt return of children under the age of 16 who have either been ‘wrongfully’ removed from one Contracting State to another or ‘wrongfully’ retained in another Contracting State, and organize or secure the effective exercise of access (visitation) rights. ‘Abduction’ means ‘wrongfully removing’ to another country or ‘wrongfully retaining’ a child in a country where he has not been ‘habitually resident’, i.e. living.

Under the Hague Convention Law (Return of Abducted Children) 1991, Israel joined the Hague Convention from 1st December 1991 and is bound by its provisions. Providing that the other country is also a party to the Hague Convention, most of the legal proceedings for the child's return under the Hague Convention will be made in the appropriate court of the country where the child has been abducted to.

First Rule:
Whatever legal steps are taken there is no guarantee that abduction can be prevented in practice. Be aware of that and keep in mind that you may find yourself in a long, costly and painful legal battle.

Suspicion and how you can try to prevent abduction:
If you suspect that the other parent may try and abduct your mutual child, there is not much you can do concerning the children’s passport (especially if the child has dual nationality and therefore two passports).

Different countries have different policies regarding the use of a passport. In Israel, a citizen must enter and leave the country only when using the Israeli passport. Please remember! There is no full guarantee that this is an unbreakable law. Even though a citizen is “supposed” to leave Israel on the Israeli passport, it is possible to do so using a foreign passport.
Keep a photocopy of the child's passport (or the other parent's passport where the child appears). Keep in your possession updated photos of the children, and personal details such as: height, weight, marks or any other distinctive features. It is advisable to keep a copy of the children's foreign passport or at least the details of such a passport.
The Israeli Ministry of Interior recognizes that parental guardianship under Israeli law includes the power of one parent to veto the issue of a passport to a child under 18; therefore, one parent can “stop” the other in advance and avoid the child’s abduction if he is sure the other parent is planning to do so.

Children of divorced parents may receive passports only if both parents attend in person to sign their consent or at least the absent parent signs the necessary consent in front of a Ministry clerk. There is a special procedure so both parents do not have to go together at the same time to renew their child’s passport.

Children's passports are given for five years (and not 10) and the minors themselves are required to appear in person at the Ministry when issuing or renewing an existing passport.

The above concerns a passport issued in Israel and not at a consulate abroad
It is possible under certain circumstances to get an Israeli passport for minors at short notice, claiming all manners of explanations, and of course without the knowledge or consent of the other parent.

How can you try to stop the other parent?

You can bring a legal request to the Family Court asking to legally issue a ‘stop order’ or a ‘stay of exit’ order, preventing the minor’s exit across any of the country’s borders. (In Hebrew it is a Tzav Ikuv Itsia Min Haaretz)

After hearing the response of the objecting parent and the Ministry of the Interior, the court will decide whether this is a justified request. These cases are not “short cases” and they are not decided in a rush.

Once an Israeli Family Court grants such an emergency or a “temporary” “stop order” (this can be done at off hours or even only by one side without the knowledge of the other parent) – it is immediately notified to the border police at airports and all crossing points.

Try to avoid the courtroom and to reach an agreement outside the court if possible. For this purpose we strongly advice using any tactics you can to bring the other side to some kind of agreement or mediation. This will cost you less, will be less painful and much faster.

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