The Department of State has no higher priority than to safeguard the welfare of U.S. citizens abroad, the most vulnerable of whom are children. We believe that a court in the country of a child’s habitual residence is, in most cases, best placed to make decisions on matters of custody and access.
The Office of Children’s Issues serves as the U.S. Central Authority for the Hague Abduction Convention (Convention), an international treaty that offers a civil remedy to resolve international parental child abduction cases. In that capacity, the Office of Children’s Issues leads U.S. government efforts within the Department of State and with other U.S. government agencies to prevent international parental child abduction, assist children and families involved in these abduction cases, and promote the principles of the Convention.
If You Believe an Abduction is in Progress:
If you believe your child is being abducted internationally by another family member and has not yet left the United States, you can call the Office of Children’s Issues at any time at 888-407-4747.
If Your Child Has Been Abducted Overseas, We Can:
- Give you information about various resources that may assist you in pursuing the return of, or access to, your child,
- Provide you with a list of attorneys in the country where your child is located,
- Answer questions from local and federal law enforcement about the Department’s role in international parental child abduction cases, and
- If your child has been abducted to or retained in a country that is a Convention partner country, regardless of you or your child’s citizenship or legal status, forward a completed Convention application, and monitor the case throughout the foreign administrative and legal processes.
If Your Child Has Been Abducted Overseas, We Cannot:
- Provide you with legal advice, recommend a specific course of action, or represent you in court,
- Guarantee the return of, or access to, your child,
- Take custody of your child,
- Break any laws in the United States or in a foreign country,
- Pay legal fees, court costs, or any other fees associated with court cases, or
- Provide you with lodging.
Office of Children's Issues at the U.S. Department of State
Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:15 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information.
Do not Attempt
We strongly discourage trying to take your child and bring him or her back home because this could:
- Endanger your child and others;
- Have a negative effect on any future legal action you might wish to take in that country;
- Result in your arrest and imprisonment in a foreign country where you are subject to local laws.
If you do succeed in leaving the foreign country with your child, you and anyone who assisted you may be the target of arrest warrants and extradition requests in the United States or any other country where you are found.