It is often the case that when a child is abducted internationally by a parent that the non-abducting parent looks back and wonders, “Should I have seen any warning signs?” Also, if a case is already being litigated, courts will look at certain criteria to determine if there are any abduction “risk factors.” In fact, the Texas Family Code actually specifies a number of these risk factors for the court to assess and these factors can also be helpful to an individual wondering if the other parent may be contemplating child abduction. Specifically, Texas Family Code §153.502 sets forth Abduction Risk Factors and states as follows:
(a) To determine whether there is a risk of the international abduction of a child by a parent of the child, the court shall consider evidence that the parent:
(1) has taken, enticed away, kept, withheld, or concealed a child in violation of another person’s right of possession of or access to the child, unless the parent presents evidence that the parent believed in good faith that the parent’s conduct was necessary to avoid imminent harm to the child or the parent;
(2) has previously threatened to take, entice away, keep, withhold, or conceal a child in violation of another person’s right of possession of or access to the child;
(3) lacks financial reason to stay in the United States, including evidence that the parent is financially independent, is able to work outside of the United States, or is unemployed;
(4) has recently engaged in planning activities that could facilitate the removal of the child from the United States by the parent, including:
(A) quitting a job;
(B) selling a primary residence;
(C) terminating a lease;
(D) closing bank accounts;
(E) liquidating other assets;
(F) hiding or destroying documents;
(G) applying for a passport or visa or obtaining other travel documents for the parent or the child; or
(H) applying to obtain the child’s birth certificate or school or medical records;
(5) has a history of domestic violence that the court is required to consider under Section 153.004; or
(6) has a criminal history or a history of violating court orders.
(a-1) In considering evidence of planning activities under Subsection (a)(4), the court also shall consider any evidence that the parent was engaging in those activities as a part of a safety plan to flee from family violence.
(b) If the court finds that there is credible evidence of a risk of abduction of the child by a parent of the child based on the court’s consideration of the factors in Subsection (a), the court shall also consider evidence regarding the following factors to evaluate the risk of international abduction of the child by a parent:
(1) whether the parent has strong familial, emotional, or cultural ties to another country, particularly a country that is not a signatory to or compliant with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction; and
(2) whether the parent lacks strong ties to the United States, regardless of whether the parent is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States.
(c) If the court finds that there is credible evidence of a risk of abduction of the child by a parent of the child based on the court’s consideration of the factors in Subsection (a), the court may also consider evidence regarding the following factors to evaluate the risk of international abduction of the child by a parent:
(1) whether the parent is undergoing a change in status with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service that would adversely affect that parent’s ability to legally remain in the United States;
(2) whether the parent’s application for United States citizenship has been denied by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service;
(3) whether the parent has forged or presented misleading or false evidence to obtain a visa, a passport, a social security card, or any other identification card or has made any misrepresentation to the United States government; or
(4) whether the foreign country to which the parent has ties:
(A) presents obstacles to the recovery and return of a child who is abducted to the country from the United States;
(B) has any legal mechanisms for immediately and effectively enforcing an order regarding the possession of or access to the child issued by this state;
(C) has local laws or practices that would:
(i) enable the parent to prevent the child’s other parent from contacting the child without due cause;
(ii) restrict the child’s other parent from freely traveling to or exiting from the country because of that parent’s gender, nationality, or religion; or
(iii) restrict the child’s ability to legally leave the country after the child reaches the age of majority because of the child’s gender, nationality, or religion;
(D) is included by the United States Department of State on a list of state sponsors of terrorism;
(E) is a country for which the United States Department of State has issued a travel warning to United States citizens regarding travel to the country;
(F) has an embassy of the United States in the country;
(G) is engaged in any active military action or war, including a civil war;
(H) is a party to and compliant with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction according to the most recent report on compliance issued by the United States Department of State;
(I) provides for the extradition of a parental abductor and the return of the child to the United States; or
(J) poses a risk that the child’s physical health or safety would be endangered in the country because of specific circumstances relating to the child or because of human rights violations committed against children, including arranged marriages, lack of freedom of religion, child labor, lack of child abuse laws, female genital mutilation, and any form of slavery.
If you notice these risk factors and are worried your child might be taken out of the country by the other parent then you could contact an attorney immediately to see how to best handle the situation. Preventing an abduction before it ever occurs is always easier than trying to recover the child after the fact.