A Maryland man has been reunited with his 12-year-old daughter eight years after his estranged wife abducted the girl and fled the United States. The woman took the child to the Philippines in the midst of a bitter child custody battle in 2004, telling the man he would not see his daughter again. The girl's 43-year-old father worked with law enforcement and court officials to file abduction charges against the woman and settle with his daughter in Maryland.
While the father was ultimately able to recover his daughter, many parents in Maryland and across the country are faced with similar predicaments. According to the most recent data from the Department of Justice, about 203,900 children were kidnapped by family members in 1999, many of whom fled to other countries. A DOJ study explains that these abductions were much more likely to occur in families where children were not living with both parents.
The Maryland State Police says that children abducted by their relatives account for most of the missing-person cases handled by its Child Recovery Unit. However, the mother's charges were dropped. She is now lobbying courts to allow the girl to live with her in a different state.
Although the couple's custody dispute had not been resolved at the time of the woman's departure, a Maryland judge awarded full child custody to the father after the mother failed to appear at multiple hearings.
The mother recently submitted a petition to modify the custody arrangement, but was only awarded visitation rights while the father retained custody. In the petition, the woman criticized the means by which the girl was returned to her father, arguing that it could potentially be harmful to uproot the girl from her life in the Philippines.
An official with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said that it is important to minimize any inherent trauma in relocating an abducted child. She explained: "We never really know how the child is going to respond or react upon being reunited with that parent."
Source: Baltimore Sun, "Eight years after daughter's departure, a father is reunited," Kevin Rector, July 20, 2012