Flight Diverted Due to Child Custody Issue

Officials Divert Flight Due to Child Custody Issue

In September, a flight from Dulles International Airport to Beijing was diverted back to its point of departure when FBI officials determined that a child kidnapper was apparently on board, with the child.

According to reports, a United Airlines flight containing 180 passengers made it to Canadian airspace before FBI officials issued an order that it return to Dulles. The FBI said it had been notified by the child’s father, a U.S. citizen, that the child and his mother, a Chinese native, were aboard. He told agents that he feared the mother intended to take the child to China permanently. The mother was arrested by FBI officials when the plane landed and the child was reunited with his father.

The parents of the child had separated in 2013 and were in the midst of divorce proceedings. The court had granted joint custody of the four-year-old son, who was born in China and has dual citizenship. Sources say the couple’s 2014 custody agreement prohibits travel outside of the United States without advance written permission from the other parent. The mother was charged with a federal offense of attempting to “remove a child from the United States with intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights.”

Passengers said they were nearly three hours into the flight when they were notified of “mechanical” issues that required that they turn around. Once they arrived in Dulles, authorities came on board and escorted the woman, her mother and the child off the plane. The crew then disclosed what was actually happening.

Officials say that, had the plane landed in another country, a lengthy international custody battle would likely have ensued. Federal authorities note that one in four annual missing child reports involve children taken out of the country by foreign-born parents. Once the child is outside of the country, though, it becomes complex and time-consuming to try to get them back. That can often be done through negotiation, where both countries are signatories to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction. That would have been complicated in this matter, as China is not a signatory to that treaty.

Contact the Law Office of Len Conner & Associates

At the Law Office of Len Conner Associates, we offer a free initial consultation in all family law matters, including issues relating to divorce. Send us an e-mail or call our office at (972) 445-1500 or 972-445-1500 if you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Or call us toll free at (877) 613-5800 for an appointment.

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