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International abduction of children (Russia)
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Question

Karina,

My son, Richard, is with me right now in the USA. He goes with his mom every other weekend from Friday evening to Monday morning. My former wife has been in violation of the judges order whereas she moved 60 miles away from New York and now lives in New Jersey.

On April 2017, his mother against my full consent flew back to Russia and delivered our son there in Moscow on June 2017. I flew there directly after the birth. We went back as a family to the United States on September of 2017.

My ex has not taken our son back to Russia since that, and I want to prevent this from happening until Richard is 18 years old.

I have a lot of friends and contacts in Russia and I do want to take Richard back before he is a 18 yrs old but I am concerned that the Russian authorities or me ex family can cause a situation to have them take my son and deport me or through me in jail for kidnapping (heard horror stories).

If there was a way that I could still securely travel with my son at least once a year without issue, I would welcome that opportunity. The attorney that finished the custody litigation recently got all of Richard's Russian document finally from his mom and he is holding them due to COVID19 lockdown.

According to the custody order which I have send to you, neither parent shall relocate the residence of Richard outside a radius of 50 miles from his current residence, without prior order of the Court or the written consent of both parents. Neither parent shall remove Richard from the United States without prior consent of the Court or the written consent of both parents.

Is my ex in violation of those covenants as long as she lives in NJ outside the 50 miles radius and can I legally not give back the Russian documents to prevent her from traveling outside the country back to Russia with Richard until she is in compliance?

When I first found your website, I was impressed by your experience and knowledge. Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

!
Answer

According to my experience, to prevent your ex traveling to Russia with your son, you need to keep his Russian and US passports in your possession. Moreover, you need to obtain a court order that prohibits a child from traveling outside of the United States.

Prevention measures can be effective if appropriate steps are taken in a timely manner. These steps include engaging law enforcement and securing court documents that protect you and your child. A clear court order may be the most important preventative measure. Court orders may include provisions such as prohibiting international travel of the child, requiring a court to hold a child’s U.S. and foreign passports. Without a specifically worded order with travel restrictions for your child, law enforcement and airline personnel may not be able to prevent your child from leaving the United States.

Local law enforcement can work with you to have your child’s name entered into the National Crime Information Center database and FBI, if you believe your child has can be taken out of state. Some law enforcement agencies may be less responsive if there is no court order for your child.

Since the mother already left your state, and since the fact that this is against court order if she has visitation out of state, I am strictly recommending you to stop it by court order. This is just first step. When she will move far away and you start to complain, she will have argument that you have verbal consent for it, and she will prove it easy because she will have evidences of her residence out of state for a while. If you want to keep the situation under your control, do not make any indulgence for your ex: as soon as she will become strong enough, she will turn the matter in her favor. You will have a risk to lose the case because you previously agree/did not interfere with her actions. Therefore, please file motion for contempt of the court if she gives you any reason.

If she decides to take your child to Russia, she will restore Russian passport for your son, because the United States does not have exit controls or require two-parent consent for a minor to leave the country. Therefore this is important to provide the court order to FBI and other authorities upfront. If she finally will take the child to the Russian Federation, you need to get U.S. court order to demand her returning. If she will not comply with this order, the judge will make arrest order. Some Russian people don’t care about U.S. arrest because most likely Russia will not give to the United States its citizens. Remember, dual citizenship means that person who has Russian and U.S. citizenship, will be considered in the Russian Federation as Russian citizen only, same like in the United States, U.S. citizen who also have another citizenship will be considered as U.S, citizen only. This is why she came to the Russian Federation back in 2017 to give birth your son on the Russian land. By this way, your son obtained Russian citizenship without your consent. Your ex calculated in advance that if child will bear in the USA, the Russian citizenship will be not available for child due to parents’ disagreement. So, she keeps in mind possibility to run away to Russia with your child.

However, if U.S. residence is important for her, if she has good education, makes good money, wants the same for the child, she will observe U.S. law and judge’s directions.

According to your possibilities in the Russian Federation: if your ex someday will take Richard to Russia, you will have few options (Hague Convention 1980 is not an option, as you know):

1) To file Petition to the U.S. court, as I previously mentioned;

2) To file child custody case in Russia and prove you have more rights for the child and child supposed to live with you. Due to your foreign citizenship, your chances will be not too high;

3) To file visitation case in Russian court.

Many women make the same mistake. They are thinking that as soon as they will reach Russia, fathers cannot do anything. However, according to the Russian law, you have undeniable right to visit your child. Usually, you can expect personal visit few times annually, and Skype conversation on weekly basis. The Russian order cannot be ignored by her. As result, you will keep relationship with child no matter what.

For now you need to have a legal reason to address to the Russian court, since no one is living in the Russian Federation. So, the Russian Federation doesn’t have jurisdiction for now.

However, I strictly recommend you to modify U.S. order and compel her to return to home state. I believe it is your goal # 1. You also need to require a court to hold a child’s U.S. and foreign passports. In the similar situations I am providing legal opinions which help judges to understand risks of child abduction and non-returning of child even against the court order.

And finally, your idea to travel with Richard to the Russian Federation is a bad idea, and I do not recommend this to you.

Articles and consultations authored by attorney reflect the state of law as of the date of their writing. The laws change daily. Users of this site are advised to consult attorney regarding their situation.
Karina Duvall
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