Linda Liu no doubt thought she had made good on her clandestine departure from Washington DC after she successfully boarded an American Airlines jet last evening bound for Beijing with her 4-year-old son and her mother.
That is, until the Federal Bureau of Investigation was alerted and the airline was ordered to return to its home base despite completing five hours of its flight to China.
After Ms. Liu (also known as Wenjing Liu,) a Chinese citizen, and her husband, William Ruifrok, an American citizen, separated in 2013 they entered into a custody agreement that provided for joint custody and also stipulated that neither parent would remove their young son from the United States “without express written and notarized consent of the other party, provided in advance of the trip.”.
When the flight landed at Dulles Airport, an official welcoming party escorted Ms. Liu off the plane and took her into police custody on a criminal complaint of unlawfully attempting to remove a child from the United States with intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights. Ms. Liu’s mother was not detained and the young boy, who has dual citizenship, was returned to his very grateful father.
Once a child is kidnapped, particularly to a jurisdiction that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, the process to recover the abducted child is fraught with difficulty and crippling expense. China, of course, is not a signatory and so one can appreciate Mr. Ruifrok’s immense relief at the FBI’s intervention.
Summer is frequently the time when parents who wish to take their child and run seem to do so. In previous summers I have handled up to three abduction cases, while this summer I worked on the return of a child who was abducted from her Canadian father who lives in Portugal to the home of the abducting mother’s family who reside in Eastern Canada. That case is still before the Court and hopefully justice will be served and the child will be returned to Portugal. Under the Hague Convention the protocol is for the Court where the child habitually resides to decide whether the child is permitted to move to a new permanent residence, a decision based on the best interests of the child.
The only question that remains is how Mr. Ruifrok managed to convince the FBI to order the return of the aircraft. Lucky man!