A California man from Orange County has been reunited with his son after more than four years apart. His son, now eight years old, has been returned to him from Zambia, where his mother had taken him after an apparent parental abduction in 2009.
The man, an American citizen, had married a native of that country and fathered a child with her in 2005, but the marriage ended in divorce during 2008. The mother of the child lost her job and her visa in 2009 and told the court that she planned to return to Zambia. The court issued an order at the time requiring her to keep the child in America, but it is alleged that she ignored the order and took the child to Zambia during a weekend visitation. The father believes that she used a fake passport in order to transport his son.
Although he quickly reported the crime to Orange County police, accusing his ex-wife of kidnapping, he was horrified to discover that Zambia had no treaty for the extraction of a child in a child custody dispute. A family court awarded full custody to the father, but there was nothing that he could do. All that changed when the child went to the Netherlands to visit a relative there. Working in conjunction with the FBI and the Netherlands police, officials were able to detain the boy there until the full court proceedings were worked out and the boy was returned to the father.
Although the child was apparently taken in contravention to American law, Zambia does not recognize parental abduction as a legal offense. In the absence of a relevant treaty with a foreign nation the only option that a father has is to work with the authorities and wait for the most opportune time. Anyone who has experienced difficulty with an overseas child custody case would be wise to seek out the advice of a lawyer.
Source: KABC, “Orange County man reunited with kidnapped son 4 years later“, Miriam Hernandez, October 18, 2013