Here’s a story with a happy ending (KWGN, 4/12/11).
Back last June, Robin Siler, mother of four-year-old Megan Richard, sold all her belongings and moved out of her residence in Littleton, Colorado. Then, during one of her visitation periods with Megan, she absconded with the little girl to Germany.
That was a violation of the custody order governing her relationship with Megan and that of her custodial dad, Bijan Richard. It was also a violation of Colorado criminal law.
So Bijan Richard turned to the Littleton police who determined that the child and her mother were no longer in the country. Prosecutors filed charges against Siler in absentia.
Meanwhile, due to an informant’s tip, Bijan thought he knew where Siler had gone and traveled to Germany to try to find her, but to no avail. He did however employ an attorney there. That attorney plus the efforts of German police and Interpol eventually were able to locate Siler and Megan. Siler had cut the girl’s hair in an apparent effort to alter her appearance to avoid identification.
That took ten months, but once the two were found, German authorities arrested Siler and placed Megan in temporary foster care.
Richard had just returned to Colorado from Germany empty-handed, after an informant tipped him off to his abducted daughter’s location.
“It was very difficult. I was pretty much at wits end,” he says. “All hope was lost…”
Richard was feeling blue after his return home–thinking he might never see his daughter.
“Then, I got a phone call last Wednesday,” he says.
It was from his attorney in Germany, calling to tell Richard that his daughter had been located.
Megan and her mother had been separated, and Megan was staying with a foster family until Richard could get there.
Richard flew immediately back to Germany and was reunited with his little girl who was much changed since he’d last seen her. Her hair was shorter and her vocabulary larger.
“As soon as Megan saw me, she jumped into my arms and yelled ‘Daddy,’ says Richard. “We hugged for a good two-and-a-half, three minutes, and then she just talked and talked. It was a happy reunion.”
Richard says it was like the day Megan was born.
“It was almost like rebirth. It’s holding your child in your hand,” he says, “It’s something I had not done for ten months.”
Meanwhile, Siler faces extradition from Germany to Colorado where felony charges of custody interference await her. Just how long it will take for her return and trial seems to be anyone’s guess.
Interestingly, there’s not a word in the article about the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The reason for that I can only guess at. After all, the usual issues that arise in litigation under the treaty could all have come up in this case.
But it’s not clear that Richard even filed a claim under the Convention. According to the article, it was all handled as a police matter.
Whatever the case, this is how cases of parental child abduction across international borders should be handled. The Hague Convention makes it clear that child abduction is injurious to children and against the public policies of the signatory nations. It also states that the prompt return of children to their countries of residence is one of the main objectives of the treaty.
Even though it took ten months to locate Megan, once she was, things proceeded very quickly and she was reunited with her dad and returned to her familiar surroundings.
That’s the way it’s supposed to work. Unfortunately, it rarely does. The video that accompanies the article says that in some 75% of international child abduction cases, the child is never returned. Of course some of those countries haven’t signed the Hague Convention, but in many cases they have.
In the next couple of days, I’ll report on cases in which the plain language of the Hague Convention seems to have been ignored in favor of pre-decided results.
In the meantime, congratualations to Bijan Richard. I know he’s overjoyed and relieved to have Megan back.