Glimmers of Hope – Reuniting Children of Parental Abduction

May 25, 2011 was National Missing Children’s Day.

In honor of the day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked, “On this National Missing Children’s Day, let’s continue to stand up, speak out, and do our part to keep our most vulnerable citizens safe. And let’s help children around the world come home.”

On May 25, I had the privilege of standing up, speaking out, and fighting to reunite a mother and her now 4 year old daughter who had been missing for over 18 months following the father’s abduction of the child.

The abduction occurred in the winter of 2009 when the father failed to return the child to school after a court-ordered visit. He then fled from the child’s home country of Germany to Egypt. After spending several months there, and evading the mother’s attempts to locate the child, the father traveled to the United States. By that time, the mother had obtained court orders in Germany and in Egypt awarding her sole custody of the parties’ daughter.

My client’s treks across the world and efforts to locate her child during the ensuing 18 months proved futile. Her Facebook messages and postings for leads on websites related to missing kids led nowhere. A glimmer of hope flickered on Friday, May 20, 2011 when she received information from the German authorities pinpointing the father and daughter’s location in North Carolina.

On Tuesday, May 24, only 96 hours after receiving the information, the glimmer burst into a sunbeam: After filing an action for expedited enforcement of the German and Egyptian court orders, the mother and I obtained an order allowing law enforcement to pick up the child from the father’s new residence. During the reunion between my client and her daughter later that evening, the daughter at first scratched her head and searched her memory, attempting to trigger recognition of her mama’s face. But shortly, the memories overflowed and the mother and daughter embraced for the first time in over 18 months. Following a contested hearing in district court the next day, the judge entered an order enforcing the German and Egyptian court orders. By the end of the week, the mother and daughter were home in Germany.

Although my client’s lengthy search for her daughter ended miraculously on a kismet day, I’m reminded of parents around the world who are not as fortunate. There are, as I know, happy endings, but also a heartbreaking number of stories yet unresolved. In the meantime, parents searching the world for their abducted children rely on glimmers of hope and the increasing cooperation of the international community.