Parental Alienation by International Child Abduction? Or Flight from Domestic Violence?

A mother and grandmother allegedly abducted two little girls from Texas to Ireland in violation of the final judgment of divorce of the mother from the father.

The father had to hire a private investigator who, after several months, tracked them down. To secure return of the girls, the father commenced a return proceeding under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

For purposes of the proceeding, the little girls, who had not seen their father in over a year, were briefly interviewed together by a psychologist. The psychologist opined that the children disliked everything about living in the United States.

Their father finally had a short visit with the girls during the proceedings in Ireland, during which he alleged that they were extremely hostile toward him.

Under the Hague Convention, children are normally ordered to be returned to their place of habitual residence. But, as with any rule, there are exceptions.

When more than a year has elapsed, the Court may decline to order the return of children if it finds that the children are “well settled” in their new location.

And that is precisely what the Court did in this case.

The father contends that the mother alienated the children from him, that is, willfully and methodically campaigned to turn his children against him. But, he insists, the Irish courts don’t “believe” in parental alienation. And, hence, the outcome in Ireland.

The article has an interesting discussion about parental alienation, aptly characterizing it as a form of child abuse, and suggesting that children are extremely and quickly susceptible to it.

The article is one-sided, written from the standpoint that this was a particularly severe case of alienation by the mother. And much of what is reported in the article appears to support that conclusion.

It really should be noted, however, that early in the article it is glossed over that the Court ordered that exchanges of the children for purposes of visitation were supposed to take place at a police station.

That is not where exchanges take place in the typical divorce / separation. Normally, police station exchanges are reserved for cases where there is a history of domestic violence.

So the case in question may not be as cut and dried as it may appear at first glance.

Either way, the father has not given up. Since the removal in this case was in violation of court order, Texas law enforcement can charge the mother, among other things, with custodial interference, a felony for which the mother may be extradited back to Texas.

Read more in this Plano Courier Star article: Kidnapped girls found but not returned home.