This is not the time to adopt the wait-and-see approach. Your goal is to get your child back into the United States as soon as possible. The longer the child is in Brazil, the harder it will be to get the child back.
Contact the U.S. Department of State.
The Office of Children's Issues. The Office of Children's Issues can open an international parental child abduction case for you as well as give you information about ways of locating your child, Brazil's laws, and possible solutions for returning your child to the United States.
Contact your local police.
Your local police can fill out a missing persons report and you can request that the police file this information into the National Criminal Information Center. From here, Interpol and other agencies may able to flag your spouse's and your child's passports.
Use the Hague Convention
To date, there are 69 nations included in the Hague Convention. The countries on this list have agreed that any child who was living in one Convention country (in this case, the United States) and was abducted to another Convention country (in this case, Brazil) shall be returned. The Hague Convention can be very effective in returning your child to the United States, where any custody disputes regarding your child can be heard by the United States court system. To initiate this process, you will need to fill out an application. In addition you need to consult an attorney in Brazil immediately so that you can file a motion under the Hague Convention for return of the child.
Consult with an American attorney.
Consult with an American attorney, preferably one who specializes in family law and who has experience dealing with international child abduction. Your attorney may be able to get you a U.S. court order which grants you sole custody of the child. Your attorney will also be able to advise your Brazil attorney regarding the custody laws in your state. In order to succeed in a Hague Convention motion it is necessary to show that your were exercising a right of custody prior to abduction of the child and that your state was the child's place of habitual residence prior to abduction. Your US attorney can give an opinion as to whether you were exercising a right of custody.
Consult with a Brazilian attorney.
Call a Brazilian attorney who is experienced with child abduction and who can help you with any legal issues which may arise as you try to retrieve your child in Brazil. Just because you may have a court order from the U.S. which says you have sole custody of your child does not necessarily mean that Brazil will recognize this order. The Brazilian attorney can help you determine the effectiveness of such an order as well as advise you of any civil or criminal actions which could be brought against you should you attempt to remove your child from Brazil. Your Brazilian attorney will also be essential if you are using the Hague Convention.
Weigh your options.
Keep in mind that your goal is to get your child back into the United States as soon as possible. Depending on the situation, though, it may not necessarily be the smartest thing to go in with guns blazing. If an amicable approach has a good chance of working, it may be worth the effort to try to go to Brazil and try to talk your spouse into returning the child to the United States. Do not rely on this as your only option, however. You should already be working on a Plan B, such as filing a Hague Convention application, in case this approach fails or does not work quickly. Discuss the best approach you should take with your attorneys as well as the U.S. Department of State. Delay will seriously prejudice your case. If a child remains in Brazil for in excess of one year the chances or getting the child returned are diminished since the other parent may be able to show that the child is now settled in his/her new environment.
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