Thursday, November 3, 2005
"CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — It often happens like this: A U.S. soldier stationed overseas meets and marries a non-U.S. citizen. They have a child, then a falling out. Who gets custody of that child hasn’t been settled — but one parent takes the child to live elsewhere without the other’s consent. Sometimes it might be the soldier’s home in the United States. Sometimes it’s the spouse’s home in her native land. Either way, the left-behind parent must navigate a maze of international and local legal procedures to have any chance at a parental relationship with the absent child.
U.S. military parents serving overseas are involved in numerous such child custody disputes and resulting parental abductions, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Stars and Stripes contacted NCMEC — which works with the U.S. State Department on international cases — after learning of three incidents in recent months of U.S. military parents or spouses in South Korea taking children from the other parents in unresolved custody disputes. Unknown is how widespread the problem is throughout the entire U.S. military. Julia Alanen, NCMEC’s International Division director, said her organization is working about 1,350 parental abduction cases outside the United States but could provide no exact numbers on how many servicemembers are involved.
“We see numerous cases involving U.S. servicemen and women residing abroad,” she said. “Unfortunately, I suspect that actual numbers are much higher, particularly involving countries whose officials are unaware of our resources and/or lack their own.”" By Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes Pacific edition. Link to Article (last visited 11-02-05 NVS)