International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009 – HR 3240

With his support of David Goldman in David’s efforts to recover his parentally kidnapped child from Brazil, Representative Smith has done more for the International Family Abduction Community than any single politician in the last several decades. That’s not to take away from other politicians including President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Senator Lautenberg whom also supported the return of Sean Goldman to his natural or biological father. However, with the global media coverage the Goldman case received, it provides hope and new beginning for thousands of open International Family Abduction cases.

Earlier this year, Representative Chris Smith introduced H.R. 3240, the International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009. This bill is the first since the Parental Kidnapping Act of 1993. By opening the door for sanctions against countries that do not comply or ignore the Hague Convention, it will do more to protect the basic human rights of child and deter International Family Abduction and hopefully accelerate the return of Internationally kidnapped children. In addition, it should set a International or global legal precedence.

Below is a summary of the bill. Let’s hope that Congress will pass this bill as quickly as possible in the New Year.

Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009 – H.R. 3204 Summary

H.R. 3240: International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009 111th Congress This is a bill in the U.S. Congress originating in the House of Representatives (“H.R.”). A bill must be passed by both the House and Senate and then be signed by the President before it becomes law. Bill numbers restart from 1 every two years. Each two-year cycle is called a session of Congress. This bill was created in the 111th Congress, in 2009-2010. The titles of bills are written by the bill’s sponsor and are a part of the legislation itself.

International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009 – Establishes within the Department of State an Office on International Child Abductions which shall be headed by the Ambassador at Large for International Child Abductions. States that Ambassador at Large shall be a principal adviser to the President and the Secretary of State regarding matters of international child abduction and refusals of rights of access. Authorizes the Ambassador at Large to represent the United States in such diplomatic matters and international forums. States that the primary responsibilities of the Ambassador at Large shall be to: (1) promote measures to prevent the international abduction of children from the United States; (2) advocate on behalf of abducted children whose habitual residence is the United States; (3) assist left-behind parents in the resolution of abduction or refusal of access cases; and (4) advance mechanisms to prevent and resolve cases of international child abduction. Directs the President to: (1) annually review the status of unresolved cases in each foreign country to determine whether the government has engaged in a pattern of noncooperation, and if so, designate such country as a Country With a Pattern of Noncooperation; (2) notify the appropriate congressional committees of such designation; and (3) take specified presidential or commensurate actions to bring about a cessation of noncooperation. Sets forth consultation, notification, and reporting requirements for the President and the Secretary. Prohibits judicial review of any presidential determination or agency action under this Act. Amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to prohibit development or security assistance from being provided to a country that has engaged in a pattern of noncooperation regarding unresolved cases of international child abduction or denial of rights of access, or has failed to undertake serious efforts to locate children abducted to such country. Amends the International Financial Institutions Act, in determining whether a country engages in a pattern of gross human right violations for purposes of assistance considerations, to consider whether such country has engaged in a pattern of noncooperation regarding unresolved cases of international child abduction or denial of rights of access, or has failed to undertake serious efforts to locate children abducted to such country. Amends the Trade Act of 1974 to consider for tariff preference purposes whether a country has engaged in a pattern of noncooperation regarding unresolved cases of international child abduction or denial of rights of access. Amends the Admiral James W. Nance and Meg Donovan Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2000 and 2001 to require, for issuance of a passport for a child under 14 years old living outside the United States, that the person executing the passport application provides documentary evidence that such person is a U.S. citizen, has joint custody over the child, and is executing such application outside the United States.

6 Responses to International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009 – HR 3240

  1. Emmanuel Lazaridis says:

    H.R. 3240 of 2009 is just a constituency-pleasing paper tiger. The Department of State already does what the Resolution is asking it to do. The President already has the authority to take presidential or commensurate actions in this regards if he or she so chooses, and the Resolution does not reduce the President’s discretion whatsoever. U.S. passport issuance for minor children is already tightly regulated. So… what’s new? Where’s the beef?

    If congressional leaders really wanted to address the problems faced by American parents and children abroad, they would create an elected representative to represent their interests in Congress itself.


  2. underwatch says:


    Thanks for your comments.

    In my opinion, both the State Department and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have resources but lack the mandated authority to directly address the International Child Abduction issue. In following the Goldman case, it appeared that the local courts in Brazil was not in a hurry to resolve the case and completely ignored any global legal precedence including the Elian Gonzalez case. This also included pressure by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. I think the efforts of Congressman Smith and Senator Lautenberg’s holding up of the trade bill were significant. I recollect reading that the Brazilian Attorney General was upset saying that the non-return of the Goldman child was disparaging to his character.

    I think H.R. 3240 does provide the “teeth” to pressuring the local judges in Hague Countries to support this child custody jurisdiction convention. That said, I also think the Hague Convention should eventually be amended.

    If you have any specific recommendations to improve H.R. 3240 or the Hague Convention please let us know your thoughts. This issue has received massive media coverage thanks to David Goldman, Congressman Smith and well as NBC Dateline. I would personally like to see this bill passed.

    The Editor

  3. Emmanuel Lazaridis says:

    Dear “The Editor”,

    I don’t know where you get the impression that “the efforts of Congressman Smith and Senator Lautenberg’s holding up of the trade bill were significant”. This was just a bunch of posturing for the cameras. An independent judiciary in Brazil made the decision that gave Mr. Goldman’s child to him. The custodial rights litigation in Brazil had simply run its course and, at least according to the announcements I read, the child’s Brazilian family decided not to pursue any further appeals. The dispute lasted a total of 16 months. Not too shabby really, all things considered.

    I see nothing in H.R. 3240 that would pressure any self-respecting foreign judge to rule one way or another in such a child custody case. Both the State Department and the National Center already have the mandated authority to directly address matters of international child abduction. That would be 42 USC 11601 et seq as amended. If you consider executive authority also, for example, Executive Order 12648 of August 11, 1988, and 61 FR 7069, you see that all the mandate that is needed from Congress already exists.

    There is no such thing as “global precedence”, and any attempt to place official pressure on foreign judges in individual cases is likely to backfire. If such pressure is ever placed on or felt by foreign judges, what you can expect to see in cases brought abroad pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction will be a significant expansion in the use of exceptions to return. The existence of criminal charges in the US against a foreign parent for allegedly kidnapping his or her own child(ren) is already one of the best defenses to the recognition or enforcement of American child custody orders abroad, I assure you.

    What specific recommendations would I make? I have a whole bunch, but I’ll outline for you just three of the most critical.

    First, the child abduction and missing children activities of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children should be brought under direct governmental control, as they are in almost every other country around the world. This would help give them the “teeth” that they presently lack.

    Second, Congress should create an elected official to represent the interests of Americans located abroad, at least in a similar capacity to that of the congressional representatives of the District of Columbia. Such an elected official would not only have the mandate to work on behalf of American children outside the United States, but also the authority and credibility of a Congressman. Remember that the real objective of any new legislation should be to resolve these often intractable familial disputes, not to force the parties to them into even more extreme postures. Because the parties are often all American citizens — one in the US, the others without — the offices of an intercessory Congressman for Americans abroad would be likely to be viewed as both more neutral and more capable of ensuring, for example, that the legal situation of a child will not change if the child visits the other parent in the US while foreign litigation is pending. This is, of course, a major matter of concern to parents abroad of children of mixed ethnicity, and can often be the main hurdle to American children retaining any genuine connection with their relatives in the States.

    Third, Congress should fund new mechanisms for familial dispute resolution abroad. This it can do in a number of ways without infringing on local sovereignty. We must always keep in mind that, while use of the “stick” may often feel gratifying, the “carrot” is more regularly effective.

    Parental abductions, whether actual or just alleged, don’t fall out of the clear blue sky. They are a response to the conditions in which a parent finds him- or herself. Address the conditions that led a parent to act as he or she did and you stand a chance at reducing the problem. Trying to dam the stream alone will simply shift its flow.

    Without fundamental changes in how these familial disputes are addressed and resolved, the problem of broken families separated by borders, physical and emotional distance will only continue to worsen.

    The Contributor

    • underwatch says:

      Hi Emmanuel,

      Thank you for your comments. I actually do think holding up the trade bill was important in not only putting pressure on the the Brazilian courts but to level the playing field against any Anti-Americanism that might have played a role. There were certainly allegations that the influence of the Brazilian family might have played a critical role in slowing the eventual return of the Goldman child. You also pointed out the issue what influence what it would take to pressure any “self-respecting foreign judge” to rule to send to a child to the United States. I think with the amount of aid the United States of America gives to other countries, then the trade items in H.R. 3240 do give it some “teeth”, at least with some countries.

      I have noticed over the years that International Family Abduction cases are very complex and are very different depending on the country involved. Each left behind or recovering victim parent usually has a very different set of circumstances.

      Emmanuel, do you have a case? If so, please share your story.

      The Editor

  4. LBF says:

    Emmanuel Lazaridis is a narcissitic pig and is himself the abductor of a girl from her custodial mother and the subject of US and French arrest warrants and Interpol Yellow and Blue notices.

    On his site he says international parental abductions are “private family matters of no interest to the general public.” I’m sure that his one member non-profit, like NAMBLA, is big on the “love” (ie abuse) that parents can show a child. Don’t get take in by his twisted and circular logic. He is casting aspersions on measures to prevent child abduction because he himself is a child abductor. His dislike of this law should be taken as a testament to the strength of it.

  5. Orbikesteri says:

    The response level to local and national disasters is awesome but it’s a real shame that so many citizens take advantage of the sad situations.

    I mean everytime there is an earthquake, a flood, an oil spill – there’s always a group of heartless people who rip off tax payers.

    This is in response to reading that 4 of Oprah Winfreys “angels” got busted ripping off the system. Shame on them!

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