Arguments & fights
over children

Crossing boundaries

Central Contact Point for Cross-border Family Conflicts

ZAnK - Zentrale Anlaufstelle für grenzüberschreitende Kindschaftskonflikte

You are afraid that your partner may abduct the child

“If you leave me, you will never see your child again.” Such verbal threats, which often occur when parents are fighting, may cause fear that the parent would put his threats into action, e.g. when he or she wants to go on holiday together with the child. Or when the child does not come home in time on Sunday evening after having spent the weekend with the other parent. But sometimes, it is just a vague feeling which causes the fear that the partner would fold up his tents and disappear, never to be seen again, together with the child.


But one thing is for sure:
Every case is different. It is not always possible to tell whether the fear of child abduction is justified or not. Often the fear is higher than the actual risk. Sometimes the fear diminishes when things get back to normal after the separation, and when the conflict can be resolved between the couple. 


The question whether precautionary measures should be taken or not, always depends on the specific circumstances of each individual case. It is you who knows your partner best, as well as the circumstances of the case, and who knows best whether this or that step would possibly aggravate the conflict, and whether it would increase or diminish the risk of child abduction.
As a warning signal, however, this fear should always be taken seriously. If you have any questions, please call us. We will listen to you, discuss with you the options available, and assist you in taking those steps which you think are necessary.

What You Can Do

Establish a common basis
The best way to feel safe is to try to fulfill their role as parents as before, and to realize that they both love their child, that they both want the best for their child, and therefore refrain from doing anything that would not be in the best interests of their child.

Clarify the facts and circumstances
Are there any warning signs that the other parent is planning to abduct the child?
What are his or her occupation, social contacts, financial situation? Has the family or the relationship been the only thing which kept him or her in this country? Did he or she often mention the wish to return to his or her country of origin? How serious was your conflict? Was your relationship irretrievably broken? Did your children say anything to you?
If there are no definite signs of this, you may try to reach an agreement on generous visitation rights for the other parent, involve him or her in important decisions concerning the children, and make them feel that they won’t lose their children in spite of the separation.

Talk to each other
and – possibly with the help of third persons (friends, relatives, arbitrators, a mediator) – express your fears. Perhaps the other parent has the same fears and you will manage to find common ground for collaboration based on mutual trust and to resolve disputed issues.

Contact the youth welfare office or a counseling agency
There you can express your fears and concerns and think about what steps you can take. The professional in charge, as a neutral person, can share with you his or her ideas about the situation or speak to your partner in order to clarify the situation and gain an impression of the situation. Moreover, a joint discussion can take place in which you can try to reach agreements, etc.

Supervised visitation
may be an interim solution: a third person may be required to be present when the child meets the other parent. A supervised contact arrangement usually is limited in time. Its ultimate aim is always to reach an unsupervised contact arrangement.
Supervised contact may be established by means of a voluntary agreement which is made e.g. at the youth welfare office, or – if the other parent does not agree – by a court order.

Please note that this step should be carefully considered because it may aggravate the conflict and may even have an adverse impact on the child unnecessarily.

Go to court to apply for:

  • Sole custody of the child;
  • Transfer of the right to determine the place of residence of the child to you or to the youth welfare office;
  • A ban on relocating to another place together with the child without prior approval by the court;
  • An order to deposit the child’s passport at the youth welfare office and to submit a written document which proves that the other parent has notified the relevant consular office that he or she has deposited the passport;
  • An obligation to appear with the child at a competent office in regular intervals – e.g. at a child welfare authority or child protection services or a police station at the place where visitation is exercised;
  • A call for a border alert for the territory of the Schengen States.

Please note: It is true that all these steps may help provide more legal clarity but they may just as well result in further escalation of the conflict. Certainly, these steps are not supposed to bring absolute certainty that the child will not be abducted if the other parent is planning the child’s abduction secretly and with much energy.

In other States, it is commonplace in such cases to obtain an order to deposit a certain amount of money as a guarantee during the time of visitation.
Depending on the individual State, an application for a mirror order can be filed, i.e. two identical court orders in the two countries involved, specifying the contact arrangement and obligations, or it can be required to submit documents which certify the recognition of enforceability of a custody or access order. If a child is likely to be taken to a country which is a Contracting State to the Brussels II bis Regulation or the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the relevant regulations are contained in those legal instruments already.

How it affects the children

To facilitate contacts between your child and the other parent which they can enjoy untroubled, you should try to avoid that your fear of child abduction or your inherent distrust are conveyed to your child. You should consider very carefully if it would possibly be helpful to speak with your child about your worries. Depending on the child’s age and maturity as well as the manner of speaking to them, they will be able to deal with this information and be alert, thus protecting themselves. Likewise, it can be helpful to take precautionary measures e.g. by alerting the school or day care centre and asking for their attention.

 

Please note

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