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Child returned to mother after international kidnapping

After an agonizing 10-month battle to get her son returned from relatives in India, a Tennessee mother finally has her child back in her arms.

The traumatic separation of mother and son started after the child's parents visited relatives in India. Since the couple was having marital problems, they left their son with the husband's family in hopes that a little time alone to work on their relationship might save the marriage.

When the attempt at reconciliation failed, the mother found her husband's relatives unwilling to return her child and her attempts to get custody through the Indian court system blocked.

While the parents are both legal permanent residents, their child was born in the United States and is a U.S. citizen. Accordingly, the mother filed a legal complaint in Tennessee as well as India, and the Tennessee court granted the mother temporary custody. It denied the father's request to let an Indian court decide the case because of the child's nationality and ordered the child returned to his mother in the U.S.

The problem with the court's declaration is that India has not yet signed the Hague Convention, which is the international treaty that governs child custody cases. Absent that treaty, the country isn't obligated to obey the U.S. court's custody order.

Ultimately, the legal battle escalated until the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) got involved and the boy's father was arrested on charges of international parental kidnapping and conspiracy.

While the FBI is powerless to force the return of a child to the U.S. in these situations, the pressure of a potential prison sentence (up to 3 years on the kidnapping charges alone) can be used to exert pressure on the parent involved. That tactic worked in this case, and the father agreed to intervene with his relatives and facilitate the child's return to the U.S.

Unfortunately, the story in this case still isn't over -- the father is still facing criminal charges that he hopes to have dismissed and the family court has yet to rule on the parents' divorce or any long-term custody arrangement.

However, cases like these illustrate the complex world of international custody issues. Sometimes it takes a little creative legal and political maneuvering to regain custody of an abducted child.

If you're dealing with an international abduction case, enlist the aid of a child custody attorney as soon as possible.

Source: The Commercial Appeal, "Boy returned to mother in Indian custody case," Daniel Connolly, March 01, 2017

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