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Excerpts from 'What To Do If You Think Your Child Might Be Kidnapped

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE CONCERNED

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE CONCERNED

THAT YOUR CHILD MIGHT BE KIDNAPPED

By

 

GERALD L. NISSENBAUM, J.D., LL.M. (TAX)

Nissenbaum Law Offices

88 Broad Street, 4th Floor

Boston, Massachusetts 02110-2410

(617) 542-2220

 

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Prepared under Grant Number 93-MC-CX-K004 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, by Public Administration Service. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

 

Copyright © 1993 Gerald L. Nissenbaum, 88 Broad Street, 4th Floor, Boston, Massachusetts 02110-2410. Updated 1998.

 

Gerald L. Nissenbaum is a Fellow and Past President of both the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Mr. Nissenbaum also has been appointed by the Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law to a Special Commission that supervises ratification and implementation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. He is also Certified as a Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.

This work is dedicated to the memory of Holly Kristen Piirainen who was kidnapped from her paternal grandparents' home in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Holly's maternal grandfather is married to the author's first cousin.

When Holly was kidnapped, the Piirainen family reached out to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the Adam Walsh Foundation, and the Interstate Association of Stolen Children, all of whom offered immediate help. NCMEC tried everything in a Herculean effort to get Holly back alive. Unfortunately, Holly was not found alive.

Mr. Nissenbaum wrote this work, which is excerpted here, to provide information that will serve to help prevent kidnappings and, if a kidnapping occurs, to help effect a speedy recovery of your child.

TO RECEIVE A FULL COPY OF THIS WORK

COMPLETE COPIES OF THIS IMPORTANT DOCUMENT ARE AVAILABLE. TO COVER THE COST OF DUPLICATION, POSTAGE, AND HANDLING, PLEASE SEND A CHECK IN THE SUM OF $7.95 PAYABLE TO "KIDNAP" TO P. O. BOX 11704, COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA 29211.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT AND DISCLAIMER

This publication is intended to be used by people who are genuinely concerned that their child might be kidnapped or, sadly, whose child has been kidnapped by a former spouse, partner, or other family member. Perhaps this information will provide some ideas of what to do, where to go, and what kinds of things can be done to try to prevent a kidnapping or to help get the child safely returned. While much of the material in this publication focuses on children who have been taken out of the country, most of the information also is applicable to cases in which the child remains in the United States.

This material does not mean to suggest or imply that there will likely be a kidnapping every time there is a divorce, separation, or problem between the parents of children. As with all aspects of a child's life, each parent needs to assess his or her own situation and do what he or she thinks is appropriate and necessary to protect the child.

The following information and ideas are not meant to be construed as legal advice, as a substitute for legal advice, or as the only ideas, remedies, or methods to be used in applicable situations. Rather, this information is presented for such help as it may be, with the only advice being get yourself a lawyer who is an expert in matrimonial law and who has experience in this area of the law.

You can ask for the names of matrimonial lawyers by contacting:

American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

150 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 2040

Chicago, Illinois 60601

Telephone: (312) 263-6477; Facsimile: (312) 263-7682

International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

13 Claybury, Bushey

Herts WD2 3ES

United Kingdom

Telephone: 44-181-950-6452; Facsimile: 44-181-950-8895

American Bar Association

Section of Family Law

750 North Lake Shore Drive

Chicago, Illinois 60611

Telephone: (312) 988-5613; Facsimile: (312) 988-6281

The Bar Association in your state, asking for the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the chair and council members of the Section of Family Law

We recognize that most left-behind parents have limited resources and legal assistance can be expensive. There are attorneys who will provide services pro bono (free of charge) or for reduced fees. Check with the bar association in your state and with legal aid services for assistance in locating such resources.

At no cost, you can obtain access to a computer bulletin board that is available to the public and maintained by Attorney William H. Hilton. Use your computer modem to call (408) 246-0387. You will be asked to supply identifying information and to provide yourself with your own "secret" code for future access. Once on line, you can use the HELP menu or review the index. You also can "download" whatever information you may need. This resource provides you access to comments, articles, forms, and cases concerning the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The International Parental Kidnapping Act of 1993 (P.L. 103-173) was passed by Congress and signed into law in December 1993. The Act makes international child abduction a federal felony crime and imposes criminal fines and/or a prison term on anyone who removes a child from the United States or unlawfully retains a visiting child in a foreign country. At the time this publication was printed, the U.S. Department of Justice had not provided information regarding procedures for handling these cases. If your child has been taken out of the country, you should contact the office of the U.S. Attorney in your area for information.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

OF COMPLETE PUBLICATION WHICH IS EXCERPTED HERE

Section I: What All Parents Should Have On Hand At Two Locations

Section II: Put Items In Safe Place At Two Different Locations

Section III: Things To Do If You Think Your Marriage Is In Trouble

Section IV: Things To Do To Try To Prevent A Kidnapping

Section V: Things To Do If You Think Your Child Has Been Kidnapped

Section VI: Things To Know

Section VII: Conclusion

Section VII: Summary of Books and Resources

 

SECTION I: ALL PARENTS SHOULD COLLECT TWO COPIES OF THE FOLLOWING ITEMS

1. Several recent color photographs of the child and parents. Photographs should be taken on a frequent basis because as the child grows his or her appearance often changes dramatically. If your child is missing, you will need to give these photographs to the police, press, and others. They can do a better job if they know what your child looks like in a recent photograph.

2. A list of any scars or unusual physical characteristics, height, weight, hair and eye color.

3. Two sets of your child's fingerprints—ask your local police department to take fingerprints and to give you the copies.

4. List of all passport numbers and the countries that issued them.

5. List of all driver's license numbers and automobile registrations, serial numbers, type and model of vehicles.

6. List of all credit cards, bank accounts, and social security numbers.

7. List of all the names and numbers of negotiable securities and bonds.

8. List of the names of all stock brokers and the numbers on all brokerage accounts.

9. List of the numbers of all Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and other retirement accounts, including the name of the bank, mutual fund, etc. that holds these accounts.

10. List of all information about any other asset that is converted easily into cash, such as jewelry, oriental rugs, and expensive camera equipment. Also take photographs of each such item.

11. Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your spouse's family members and close friends.

12. List of all magazine subscriptions and other subscriptions, including account numbers and who has control of the change of address process.

13. The location of the local post office where a change of address can be filed for your address.

SECTION II

THESE ITEMS SHOULD BE PLACED IN SAFEKEEPING

AT TWO DIFFERENT LOCATIONSSECTION II PUT THE ITEMS MENTIONED IN SECTION I IN A PLACE OF SAFEKEEPING AT TWO DIFFERENT LOCATIONS

 

1. Keep these items at the homes of two different friends. In this way if one friend is away, you still will have access to these items when you need them. If you use a safe deposit box at a bank, you will not be able to gain access to these items on weekends or after hours.

2. You may never have to use any of the above items, but it is better to have them and never use them than to not have them should the need arise.

3. Before you get into a situation where you are concerned about your spouse kidnapping your child, try to create and maintain an atmosphere of a joint parental effort to do things that are in your child's best interests. Look at things from your child's point of view.

4. Even if your child is kidnapped by someone other than your spouse, these items will be needed by and useful to the police.

SECTION III

THINGS TO DO IF YOU THINK YOUR MARRIAGE IS IN TROUBLESECTION III THINGS TO DO IF YOU THINK YOUR MARRIAGE IS IN TROUBLE

1. Get a court order, NOW! (See THINGS TO DO IN COURT in SECTION IV.)

2. If your spouse wants visitation, have his or her passport in your possession or have supervised visitation, or both.

3. Try to have your spouse sign a statement that clearly acknowledges that your local court has exclusive jurisdiction over all issues concerning your child, including legal custody, care and control, physical possession, visitation, and support.

4. If your child is a dual national,

a. By certified mail or express delivery, receipt required, write the foreign embassy and consulate and provide them with a certified copy of your court order. Also, if it is an emergency, fax the information.

b. Ask the foreign embassy not to issue a passport or a visa for your child. Foreign countries are not required to comply with a court order issued by a U.S. court.

5. If your child has a passport, put it in a place of safekeeping—outside your home.

6. Other passport considerations include:

 

 

a. Telephone the U.S. government's passport office to request that your child's name be placed on the passport lookout system. Then if an application is made for a passport for your child, you will be notified before the passport is issued—and before the applicant is told that you are going to be informed of the application.

b. You will need to follow up your telephone request with a written request.

c. Try to obtain a court order that grants you sole custody. If you cannot get an order for sole custody, seek a court order prohibiting your spouse from requesting the issuance of passports or duplicate passports as the case may be. You also can seek a court order prohibiting travel outside your state or outside the United States.

d. You can ask for the passport lookout even if you do not have a court order. If you do have a court order, then supply a copy of that order with your written passport lookout request. Then if a passport is applied for, the court order is sufficient justification for the application to be denied.

e. If the kidnapping parent is the subject of a federal criminal warrant, you can ask that his or her passport be revoked by the passport office. You will need to supply the passport office with a copy of the warrant, the parent's name, date and place of birth, and possible whereabouts.

7. Gather some useful family information.

a. Prepare a detailed chronological narrative of your entire relationship with your spouse, starting with a thumbnail sketch of each of you at the time you met. Then write about all significant events chronologically. Include education; assets; places of residence; country of origin; name of siblings; parents' names and addresses; health problems, including any prescription medications needed on a regular basis; financial details of assets, liabilities, income, and expenses; child's history; and other relevant information.

b. Often it is useful to have photographs (recent photographs if possible) of your spouse's parents, his or her siblings, and even the siblings' spouses and children. Frequently, kidnapped children are taken to the homes of these relatives.

8. Collect information pertaining to your relationship with your child.

a. Begin to obtain affidavits of school teachers, pediatrician, family members, friends, and neighbors attesting to your good relationship with your child, your child's apparent good health, and in general how much your child has bonded with you as exhibited by your interaction and care.

b. These items can be used to deflect possible charges by your spouse that your child has been mistreated by you, such that it would be dangerous to order the child returned.

9. Collect information pertaining to your spouse's relationship with your child.

 

a. Begin to obtain affidavits that demonstrate your spouse's poor relationship with your child and any mistreatment of your child, prior psychiatric history or manifestation of mental illness, illegal use of controlled substances, excessive use of alcohol, etc.

b. Collect and have multiple copies of hospital records, doctors' reports, and police reports that document trips to the hospital or other health care professionals to treat injuries inflicted by your spouse and interventions by the police department or reports by any Division of Social Service or Child Welfare agencies.

c. All of the above items can be used to help show that your child is in danger by being with your spouse or that your spouse has not been the child's primary caretaker.

SECTION IV

THINGS TO DO TO TRY TO PREVENT A KIDNAPPINGSECTION IV THINGS TO DO TO TRY TO PREVENT A KIDNAPPING

THINGS CONCERNING THE CHILDTHINGS CONCERNING THE CHILD

1. Personally accompany your child to and from school.

2. Consider telling your child of your concerns. This could include an instruction that your child not go with your spouse, even if your spouse says it's okay. Make sure your child knows that you must personally be present before the child can start any visit with your spouse.

3. Teach your child how to use the telephone.

a. Make sure your child knows your telephone number, including area code.

b. Make sure your child knows how to make a collect call or how to reach the operator and ask for help in getting you on the telephone. This might include teaching your child how to make a collect call from another country.

c. Have your child practice making these calls, and practice and practice again.

4. Teach your child to contact you before going any place.

a. Make sure your child knows that if anything unusual happens or that if anyone says you do not love him or her or you are injured or dead that he or she should react by immediately calling you collect. Practice this so your child will know that you are alive and well and waiting for the child to telephone you so that you can come and get him or her.

b. As mean and devastating as it sounds and is, many people who kidnap children tell those children that you are dead. Therefore, the child has no need to try to telephone you. Other kidnappers elaborate on the story, telling the children that they and the parent have to move, change names, and hide in order to be safe from the people who killed the other parent. There is no end to the things your child might be told. Therefore, your child must understand that no matter what he or she is told the child must try, and keep trying, to contact you or the police.

5. Make sure your child knows his or her own address.

6. Make sure your child knows how to telephone the police or fire department for help, even if the call has to be made in another country.

7. Inform the school of problems between you and your spouse.

a. Tell the school principal; home room teacher; course teachers; recess supervisor; cafeteria supervisor; school nurse; and anyone else at the school who may have your child for activities, such as music or band, sports, play, etc., that you and your spouse are having trouble, that you are concerned about a kidnapping, and that you will be seeking a court order. In the meantime, they are NOT to release your child to anyone else but you, personally.

b. Provide the people with a recent color photograph of your spouse that has been taped to a piece of paper on which you have written DO NOT, NOT, RELEASE [child's name] TO THIS PERSON!

8. If you are not going to personally accompany your child to and from school, also tell the school bus driver not to release your child if you are not present at the bus stop.

9. If for some reason you are not there to pick up your child and another person arrives, even with a supposed note from you, the teacher, etc., must confirm the authenticity of the note by telephoning you. Even consider having a code word to identify you in order to avoid your spouse having an accomplice at the telephone ready with an answer.

10. If your child walks to and from school, with or without school friends, you must consider training him or her to run if anyone approaches, even if it is your spouse.

11. Collect court documents.

a. Determine if there is any court action involving custody, care or control, physical possession, or visitation with your child that is pending or has been completed. If yes, where?

b. Even if it is your own case, obtain two certified copies and two exemplified copies of the docket and all of the pleadings. If you have to file a claim regarding your child in another state, one set of either the certified or exemplified copies probably will have to be provided to your local attorney or filed in that court.

12. Determine your child's state residence.

a. Has the child lived in your state for six months or for one year? If not, where has the child lived for the last six months or for the last year?

b. If the child has not lived in your state or jurisdiction for the necessary time period, is this an emergency that would permit your state to exercise its jurisdiction in order to protect the child?

13. Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678); or write to NCMEC at 2101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 550, Arlington, Virginia 22201-3052 and request a copy of its publication on Family Abduction: How to Prevent an Abduction and What to Do If Your Child Is Abducted.

14. Call or write the Office of Citizens Consular Services, U.S. Department of State, Room 4817, Washington, D.C. 20520; Telephone: (202) 736-7000 and request a copy of its booklet entitled International Parental Child Abduction.

THINGS TO DO IN COURTTHINGS TO DO IN COURT

THINGS TO DO AFTER YOU GET THE COURT ORDERTHINGS TO DO AFTER YOU GET THE COURT ORDER

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDEROTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

THINGS TO DO IF YOU THINK YOUR CHILD IS MISSING

OR MAY HAVE BEEN KIDNAPPEDSECTION V THINGS TO DO IF YOU THINK YOUR CHILD IS MISSING OR MAY HAVE BEEN KIDNAPPED

OTHER THINGS TO KNOWSECTION VI OTHER THINGS TO KNOW

CONCLUSIONSECTION VII CONCLUSION

Custody cases are very difficult, but kidnapping cases are even more difficult to resolve. The best thing is to do what is needed to prevent a kidnapping. If a child is kidnapped by a parent, international law is moving toward mandating the return of the child to his or her habitual residence.

You should recognize that the ideas in this publication are not inclusive and that you must hire a matrimonial lawyer who is experienced in this kind of case.

There must be thorough preparation. Careful and accurate pleadings must be filed. And, speed is of the essence. Do not wait to get a lawyer to help. You may need two, three, or several days to get ready to file a court case. By that time, the kidnapper may have moved on and out of reach.

Reading this publication and doing some or all of the things suggested may give you some comfort. If a potential kidnapper reads this publication, it is hoped he or she understands that the law is moving toward the speedy return of kidnapped children and is forcing the kidnapper to pay for the expenses of the other side, including attorney's fees. Beyond that, kidnapping is utterly damaging to a child.

Any parent who kidnaps a child must ask himself or herself if love and protection of the child is the true motive. If so, then go to your local court and seek protection. If you take any other action, your motive is suspect.

If the reader, whether potential kidnapper or left-behind parent, learns nothing else from this publication, let it be that you must consult with a lawyer who is an expert in matrimonial law and experienced in this kind of case. And you must do so as early as possible.

SECTION VIII

SUMMARY OF SOURCES AND BOOKLETSSECTION VIII SUMMARY OF SOURCES AND BOOKLETS

TO RECEIVE A FULL COPY OF THIS WORK

COMPLETE COPIES OF THIS IMPORTANT DOCUMENT ARE AVAILABLE. TO COVER THE COST OF DUPLICATION, POSTAGE, AND HANDLING, PLEASE SEND A CHECK IN THE SUM OF $7.95 PAYABLE TO "KIDNAP" TO P. O. BOX 11704, COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA 29211.



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